The alcohol-free philosophy of the MAC Sports Club was given a severe testing as its flagship team roared to the top of the Hawke's Bay Rugby Union's Maddison Trophy Premier rugby championship table on Saturday.
Playing on their home ground at Ron Giorgi Park in Flaxmere, MAC did it in style with a four-try bonus point 26-18 win over HB Insurances Napier Old Boys Marist, who hadn't conceded a single try in the previous three weeks.
But the big surprise was defending champion and first round Nash Cup winners Progressive Meats Havelock North's 22-19 home-track defeat by otherwise struggling IMS Payroll Hastings Rugby and Sports.
The combined effect of the two results was to place MAC three points clear of Havelock North at the top of the table after five games in the nine-match round-robin phase, and for OBM to drop out of the top four, behind away winners Tech Group of Companies Napier Technical, who beat Central by 40 points in Waipukurau, and Carters Frame and Truss Taradale, who beat HB Seafoods Tamatea by more than 30 in Hastings.
In the other match, on a day when none of the five matches were played in Napier, Tanalised Napier Pirate had a narrow win away against Clive.
MAC suddenly loom as genuine championship hopefuls, despite finishing 5th in the Nash Cup round, and the club's history of 34 years since it last won the Maddison Trophy, and just a single first division playoffs match since 1990.
MAC coach Pat Benson, an OBM life member, reckoned all the team's forwards played well, as the club's front eight did in their 1979 champion season, and MAC dominated the lineouts.
OBM led 10-7 in the first half, but turned with MAC ahead 12-10 and determined for payback after losing 10-15 in the Nash Cup game.
They were spurred by a pre-match visit from New Zealand Rugby Union president and OBM patron Ian MacRae.
MAC scored four tries, with two to Lote Fonua, while halfback Johnny Lauano played well for OBM, and scored one of their two tries.
Club chairman Anthony Morley said it was a particularly significant win, the team celebrating at the Age Concern centre the club hires as home-match aftermatch facilities, a big meal and a lot of stories, and some non-alcoholic beverages.
At Anderson Park in Havelock North it was 13-13 at halftime and 16-16 midway through the second half before Hastings got their break. Havelock North missed a chance to draw when they chose unsuccessfully to tap-and-run from a last-minute penalty in a kickable position, a little to the chagrin of mentor Tom Blake as the club relinquished the Hawke's Bay Challenge Shield.
Beaten by just 3 points in the teams match in April, Hastings were kept in the hunt with some good control in the forwards, and the reliable boot of Luke Makris, with 5 penalties and the conversion of centre Timo Vaiusu's try.
Taradale 55 Tamatea 24
Enjoying Club Day at Bill Mathewson Park, Tamatea didn't win, but after watching their Reserve side reaffirm its competition lead they did give it their best shot, leading 14-12 at one stage, holding a sniff of hope at halftime down 24-19, and they claimed a bonus point for scoring four tries.
For the maroons, an 8-try result against a typically gumptious and spoiling opposition proved valuable, putting them back into the top 4 and with reasonable sights on a place in the semi-finals, which they've missed just once in the past seven years.
Establishing more structure towards the end and widening the margin, it enabled a particular triumph for Taradale first five-eighths Manihera Eden whose 25 points, including 2 tries, gave him 101 for the season.
The other tries all went to forwards, including 2 to No8 Andrew Gardner.
Flanker Iakopo Lemalu was the pick of the Tamatea side, and scored 2 tries.
Technical 47 Central 7
Hawke's Bay Magpie Trent Boswell-Wakefield showed he's ready for NPC action when he helped guided this 6-tries-to-1 victory from the back of the Tech OB scrum, ably supported by open-side loosie Hugh Reed.
It resulted in a good platform for Technical to run the ball with increasing confidence, the forwards and backs, linked well by halfback Scott Mogford, sharing the spoils with tries to three of each division for a win similar to Tech's 46-13 Nash Cup in Napier.
Central didn't give-up, and were buoyed by their try to lock Tom Symes in the 38th minute to keep them just in touch at 21-6 down at halftime. There was always plenty of work for him and flankers Sam Bishop and Robbie Barr.
Pirate 22 Clive 16
This trip to Farndon Park was an important win for Pirate, struggling to retain the form of their 2011 champion season, and to keep in-sight the top 4.
But it did move them a step away from the bottom end of the table, and after leading 22-10 at halftime they showed particular resolve throughout the second half, holding-out Clive's bid for victory.
It ended with Clive still attacking in a game Pirate manager Murray Kennedy conceded may have ended as much as 5 minutes before the full 80.
Pirate effectively won it in the forwards, with open-side loosie Hamish Wills right on his game to score two tries. Lock Michael Allardice scored the other, and was in particularly good form with scrum and lineout partner Roger McPherson.
Clive No 8 Mark Atkins and first five Billy Ropiha were among their side's best performers, each rewarded with a try.