LISTEN TO MARK PLUMMER TALK WITH MARTIN DEVLIN ABOVE
They came in their thousands to Eden Park, braved the heavy rain which began halfway through the first half, and were rewarded with an extra-time classic – Auckland winning their first national provincial title since 2007 at the end of an extraordinary 100-minute match.
This Mitre 10 Cup premiership final, enjoyed to the fullest by a crowd of 20,130 who took advantage of the free entry, was in danger of being a procession as Canterbury had seemingly grabbed Auckland by the scruff of the neck in the first half.
That Auckland turned it around was a credit to their resilience, composure and defence. Canterbury, targeting their 10th title win in 11 years, played their part too but they couldn't crack the blue and whites when it mattered and the emotional celebrations when the final whistle finally blew showed exactly what it meant to home side.
The competition pace-setters had done it. Coach Alama Ieremia had warned his side that this would be easily their toughest match of the season and it certainly was that.
The visitors had gone to a good lead thanks to a penalty try from a collapsed maul – which resulted in a yellow card for Akira Ioane - and a nicely-worked one for new All Black George Bridge who went in under the posts.
It was apparently game over, the Canterbury machine doing what it does best.
And yet, Auckland, who lost loosehead prop Sam Prattley to a head injury after five minutes, refused to yield. Ieremia talked during the week of bringing the respect back in terms of rugby in this city and here it was proof positive.
Auckland coped superbly with Ioane's absence, scored a try through midfielder Tumua Manu in virtually their only attack of the first half and then completely turned the tables and a 20-7 halftime deficit in the second half - a superbly-converted Caleb Clarke try 10 minutes from regular time allowing them to draw level at 26-all.
Ioane, a force of nature again at No8, and Faiane were the instigators but Auckland had heroes across the park as they completely changed the rhythm of the match, and, roared on by an increasingly vocal crowd, did the seemingly impossible.
Tries for Ioane and Jordan Trainor put Auckland to within seven points before Clarke's try in the left corner and Harry Plummer's extraordinary conversion from the sideline.
Watching from the sidelines was Plummer's father Mark, the team's physiotherapist.
He told Martin Devlin that any dad wishes their kids well when they play.
"Every single kick that Harry takes, it's heart in the mouth sort of stuff. There's a bit of pride, a bit of fear, a bit of love and a bit of hope."
Auckland should have nailed it in the final seconds as they piled on the pressure only to cough it up at the end and the match went into 20 minutes of extra time, with replacement prop Mike Soseni-Feagai's converted try cancelling out Tom Sanders' for Canterbury to lock the score at 33-all after the first 10 minutes.
In the end it was a try for replacement halfback Leon Fukofuka, over for the seven-pointer with the game clock reading 93 minutes, which broke the deadlock, and Auckland hung on for a famous victory.
Auckland 40 (Tumua Manu, Akira Ioane, Jordan Trainor, Caleb Clarke, Mike Soseni-Feagai, Leon Fukofuka tries; Harry Plummer 5 cons)
Canterbury 33 (George Bridge, Tom Sanders, penalty try; Brett Cameron 4 pens, 2 cons)
Halftime: Canterbury 20-7