Hawke's Bay have stamped their Mitre 10 Cup premiership credentials with a statement 27-24 win over Waikato in Hamilton on Thursday night.
Lead by stand-out performances from No. 8 Gareth Evans and first-five Lincoln McClutchie, the Magpies prevailed in a back and forth contest to extend their dominance of the championship standings and claim their first win over the Mooloos in 11 years.
Only minutes had passed when McClutchie signalled his side's intent with a magnificent solo effort, as he accelerated through a gap, evaded five defenders then powered over the line in the tackle to score - albeit with a slightly questionable put-down.
The hosts responded in the 20th minute through newcomer Solomon Alaimalo, who stormed on to a pinpoint long pass from fullback Matthew Lansdown in broken play.
After a yellow card for an early tackle to the Bay's Mason Emerson, a mountain of Waikato possession eventually took its toll in the final minute of the half, as Quinn Tapaea crashed on to a flat pass from a scrum to send the Mooloo men into the sheds with a 12-10 lead.
They carried that momentum into the second half, where Tapaea's second try swung it even further in their favour to send the scoreline out to a 19-10 Waikato advantage.
But the Magpies struck back a few minutes later through halfback Folau Fakatava, who snuck over from close range to bring his side back within two points.
A yellow card to Antonio Shalfoon helped Hawke's Bay's cause, and they cashed in with a try to Pouri Rakete-Stones off the back of a well-worked rolling maul from a five-metre lineout to edge them back ahead.
In the 65th minute, Emerson then made amends for his earlier discretion with a clinical corner finish to extend the lead to eight points.
Substitute Simon Parker was in support to complete a Declan O'Donnell half-break and set-up a tense final five minutes.
Waikato had their chances to steal it at the death but the Bay were able to hold on to record a memorable win.
Hawke's Bay will move on to host Taranaki next Friday, while Waikato take on Tasman.