The Richmond Rabbits have gone where no other TRL side has gone before, winning their third title in a row and finishing the entire season undefeated.
The Rabbits managed to score two tries and a drop goal in the final ten minutes, to beat an emotional Tahunanui Tigers team 39-28 in the grand final at Trafalgar Park on Saturday.
Rabbits captain Hoani Takao says title number three is a “huge” achievement for the club, who have maintained their record of winning every year they’ve been in the competition. “It’s sort of unheard of to come through with a threepeat and to go through undefeated is huge,” he says. “We knew that our undefeated record would have meant nothing if we had lost today, but we came through and I’m just so proud of the boys.”
The TRL grand final was played in front of the largest number of spectators to ever watch a game of rugby league in Nelson, and the performance from both teams did the occasion justice.
It was a day of mixed emotions for the Tigers club, who came within ten minutes of winning their first-ever title. Kasi Sami and Sami Sami — two integral members of the squad — received news that their grandfather had passed away, while the team was travelling to Trafalgar Park, and had to withdraw from the squad. But the two brothers showed up in the second half, just as the Tigers edged ahead 28-26.
Coach Lance Broomfield was “very proud” of his team. “We worked really hard to get to where we are. They were favourites to win and we just had to get them on the day, but unfortunately they were too good.”
In an incredible act of toughness, Tapu Laiseni of the Tigers horribly severed his ear in the first half and returned to the field, only going to hospital once the game had finished.