Mt Albert Lions won their second Bartercard Cup title in three seasons when they defeated Marist Richmond 40-20 at Ericsson Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Lions went out to an early lead and, despite a brief comeback by the minor premiers in the second half, the Lions were able to hold onto their lead and claim the title.
Captain Steve Buckingham was the standout player for the Lions on Sunday as he turned Marist Richmond around with his kicking game and ran the cutters superbly.
Clearly the two best sides in the Bartercard Cup this season, both clubs had shared a game apiece during the early part of the season.
The Lions started the stronger of the two, making a couple of clear breaks but on both occasions the move broke down just when it appeared they should score.
Many experts predicted the game to be a head-to-head clash between five-eighth Buckingham of Mt Albert and lock Marcus Perenara of Marist Richmond. The attacks of both outfits revolved around their respective stars.
It was Buckingham that had the first laugh however when he threw a pass wide to winger Misili Manu, and the big winger galloped away to score out wide.
Buckingham converted from five metres in and handed the Lions a perfect start.
It got a whole lot better minutes later when lock Rowan Baxter crashed over from short range.
Marist Richmond had a perfect chance to strike back immediately and get back into the game but fullback Jan Tiavale opted to take the last line of the Lions defence on instead of going to an unmarked Bernie Perenara inside him and was put to ground, ending the movement.
Bernard Perenara managed to do it on his own a set later however, dummying his way across.
The Lions pushed the lead back out to 16-6 when Reagan Wigg crossed the line.
They drove a massive nail into the heart of Marist Richmond just prior to halftime when an ordinary looking grubber rebounded off a defender and sat up for Gus Malietoa-Brown who got the ball down.
The Brothers his back immediately when Bernard Perenara got on the outside of his marker and sliced through a small gap. Enjoying a brilliant game, Perenara drew the last line of defence and put Tiavale under the posts.
With gap back to 10 points after Buckingham kicked a penalty, Marist Richmond got over the line through winger Misi Taulapapa but all hell broke loose after the try was awarded.
Mt Albert centre Robinson Godfrey threw a punch at Bernard Perenara and a brawl broke out between the two.
Both players were sent to the sinbin but it appeared to be clearly instigated by Godfrey.
Mt Albert went out again when Buckingham was awarded a try after the referee, both touch judges and the in-goal judge had a mini conference.
With it getting to the desperate stage for Marist Richmond, the minor premiers went on the attack and gave themselves a chance when centre Ricky Henry scored.
But it was always going to be a big ask trying to chase down Mt Alberts lead particularly when they were given ball inside the Brothers red zone.
Malietoa-Brown crashed his way over to pick up his second try of the game and sealed the Lions second title in three years.
collected his second try of the afternoon when he raced 60 metres
to score as his teammates and coach celebrated on the