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A late rally helped University break a seven-year title drought on Saturday.
It overcame the Kia Toa Tigers 28-22 at Bayfield Park, two late tries sealing the win in the Otago club competition.
It was its first title since 2013, toppling the side which had won four of the past five titles.
University entered the final having topped the table, although it had split its two games with with Kia Toa during the season.
Kia Toa started the better. It shot out to an 8-0 lead as University took a while to work into the game.
However, University hit back with two converted tries to lead 12-8.
Both sides traded tries again, but the students took a 16-14 lead to halftime.
Kia Toa hit back after halftime, then University scored to go in front late and a cutout pass from Brooklyn Niwa put Muhammad Fahmy over in the corner to seal victory.
Lock Cameron Graham was influential for University, bringing a relentlessness on attack and defence.
Halfback Troy Anstiss had a good game, too, orchestrating the attack well and putting his outsides into space, while prop Luke Murgatroyd had a strong impact off the bench.
For Kia Toa Vila Apuula directed the attack well from standoff, and was strong defensively.
Hooker Joseph Rabble was also key, defending effectively in the middle and setting up the attack well from dummy half, while winger Josiah Lesa crossed for two tries.
For the competition’s best more games await. The Otago Whalers will play the South Island Championship tournament next weekend in Timaru.
They will face Southland, Aoraki and West Coast with the top two teams to play in a final.
The week after the winner will fly to Auckland to play the North Island champion in a televised game.