Wairarapa-Bush rampaged their way to a stunning 46-14 win over Poverty Bay in the Jeremy David Memorial Cup representative rugby match played before a disappointingly small crowd at Memorial Park, Masterton, on Saturday.
From the outset there was a hugely impressive intensity and physicality about the Wairarapa-Bush effort and in the end it was simply too much for a Poverty Bay side, which was nowhere near as poor as the end result might indicate, could handle.
In fact there were periods, especially in the first half, where Poverty Bay actually called the tune through the good metreage being made by their forwards on the "pick and go" and the hard and incisive running of big centre Paula Tokomanivalu, who generally managed to brush aside two or three defenders whenever the ball came his way.
In the scrums and lineouts, too, Poverty Bay gave a solid account of themselves but whereas they were unable to sustain a full-on effort for the entire 80 minutes, Wairarapa-Bush always looked to be on full throttle, and the longer the game progressed the more dominant they became, both in terms of territory and possession.
Perhaps the most heartening aspect of the Wairarapa-Bush play was the astute option taking, slick passing and strong running of their backs.
All too often in recent seasons we have seen the forwards compete powerfully against their opposition and the backs struggle to get any real rhythm into their game but, on this occasion, the efficiency of the rearguard had to be applauded.
The starting inside combination of Matt O'Connor at halfback and newcomer Glen Walters at first-five continually kept Poverty Bay guessing with clever changes of direction and a willingness to take the ball up themselves if the opportunity arose, and the excellent ground made by Walters with his clearing kicks was another string to his bow.
It was pleasing for Wairarapa-Bush, too, that when Inia Katia moved into halfback and Byron Karaitiana into first-five in the second half they also looked in good touch with Katia demonstrating his usual cheekiness by "stealing" a try late in the game.
Another of the new faces in Michael Te Whare could not have wished for a better start at second-five, racing some 30m for a try early in the first half, and he continued to make a positive impact with some hard, purposeful running and stout defence.
At centre Jesse McGilvary did find Tikomanivalu a handful on defence but, like Te Whare, he was always quick to make the most of any attacking chance and there was a lot to like about the pace and flair shown by the back three, wingers Cameron Heyton and Nathan Hunt and fullback Nick Olson. They were not only dangerous from set piece situations but also in broken play where they invariably managed to make room for themselves.
The assertiveness of the Wairarapa-Bush pack in all aspects of forward play did, of course, play a big part in their backs having the freedom to express their attacking skills.
It would be an over-statement to say they had a clear edge over their Poverty Bay counterparts in any department but they certainly won enough quality ball in all of them to feel more than satisfied with their efforts.
Flankers Johan Van Vliet and James Goodger and the two No 8s used, Jim Temoci and Johnnie McFadzean, covered huge territory on attack and defence with the speed and constructiveness of both Van Vliet and Goodger at the breakdowns guaranteeing their side a regular supply of second phase possession.
Unfortunately, Goodger sustained an injury which saw him leave the field during the second half and how many - if any - games he will miss remains to be seen.
Starting lock Andrew McLean and Brandon Young operated efficiently in the lineouts and were aggressive scrappers for maul ball and when Young was injured off Lachie McFadzean continued on the good work in both those areas.
Front rowers Kurt Simmonds, Richard Puddy and Wilbur Davies not only anchored a solid Wairarapa-Bush scrum but all three were lively about the paddock, especially Puddy who resembled a fourth loose forward such was his high workrate, particularly on cover defence.
The final scoreline might have suggested otherwise but you get the feeling Poverty Bay will still be a handful when they host Wairarapa-Bush in a Heartland championship in Gisborne on September 1. They have some talented players and should have their combinations settled by then.
Nathan Hunt (2), Michael Te Whare, Nick Olson, Richard Puddy, Johnnie McFadzean and Inia Katia scored tries for Wairarapa-Bush and Glen Walters kicked four conversions and one penalty. Tavita Maka and Paula Tikomanivalu scored tries for Poverty Bay and Scott Leighton landed two conversions.