The trophy cabinet at Napier Old Boys Marist has had a place for Hawke's Bay premier-grade rugby silverware waiting a long time, but celebration seems to be lingering in the wings after a crushing home-track win over Hastings Rugby on Saturday.
Bouncing back from the first loss of the season, against Havelock North seven days earlier, HB Insurances NOBM ran-up a 40-0 lead in the first 34 minutes of the Tui Nash Cup Round 7 match at Park Island and ultimately scored 10 tries in beating Ansin & Monteith Hastings 66-28.
It kept them level-pegging with MAC who beat Northfuels Central 26-18 in Waipukurau to retain the lead only on points for-and-against differential. Despite Hastings' dramatic response to the first-half onslaught - two converted tries in five minutes before halftime and another two minutes after the resumption - it was just what was required by NOBM coach Craig Gowler as he eyes up the club's first Premier title since a Nash Cup-Maddison Trophy double in 2002.
The best bits of the game were the best bits of the season, and it added to the sweet taste afterwards that it came in a match of such steeped rivalry, harking back to the days of the Napier Marist and Hastings Celtic Dooley-clubs of the pre-amalgamation era.
Gowler said he never saw the 38-point rout coming, his boys having dropped a lot of ball earlier in the season and sparking some frustration despite the top-of-the-table run, which included beating MAC in the opening round in March.
"But they didn't today," he said, after a game which started at some pace, albeit with NOBM on to the game from the start and Hastings struggling to pick up real structure.
The tries were shared around, with Hawke's Bay Magpies prop Jarvy Aoake claiming the only double.
Both wings were in on the action, as was midfield back Sam Giddens who also landed eight conversions for a personal tally of 21 points, and now 70 for the season.
Hastings moved well when they finally got the ball in hand, and the bonus point that went with scoring four tries left coach Aaron Bartlett wondering what could have been. Having a lengthy debrief amid a players' circle midfield after the game, he then reflected on the first half-hour, observing: "We weren't there."
MAC 28 Central 16
MAC, who haven't caged either major trophy since winning the Maddison Trophy Napier-Hastings competition in 1979, always knew it would be a tough trip to Waipukurau but so did the home side as it struggled with the annual clash of rugby and the opening of the duckshooting season the same day.
But it was the visitors from Hastings who got the limit bag, including the bonus point for four tries. Central coach Exham Wichman was concerned with what he considered some "borderline" MAC tactics in a "very physical" performance but conceded MAC was in charge all the way.
But he is confident his side is gathering strength as they strive to turn around a record of seven losses in a row since beating MAC 13-10 in the sides' last game in last year's competition.
MAC coach Len Huia reckoned it was "a big forward effort", with Everard Reid to the fore, that won the day.
Pirate 26 Taradale 19
The second match at Park Island caused a few neck pains for spectators keeping an eye on both fixtures in the second halves.
The last 40 minutes realised 39 points, after it had been 3-all at halftime, and it could have gone either way.
Carters Frame and Truss Taradale made the breakthrough with the game's first try six minutes after halftime, but Tanalised Napier Pirate with two converted tries and four goals from David Neilson pushed Pirate to a 10-point lead which proved too much for the maroons, who had started the year aiming for a third Nash Cup in a row.
Each side scored two tries, the difference being in the goalkicking; Neilson's 10 points as a substitute coming after wing Matt Murtha had already kicked two penalties.
Taradale, whose two tries went to wing Micky Martin, launched a new talent on the scene in first five-eighths Gregor McNeish, a former Scotland Club XV representative kicking three penalties in his first match since arriving in New Zealand.
Tech 28 Clive 27
Clive were possibly marginal favourites to beat Tech Group of Companies Napier Technical who had home advantage at Whitmore Park.
But at the end it was Tech who had the marginal advantage in a game some said was one of the best of the club season.
Tech manager Cyril Whitburn reckoned it could have gone either way, but Clive mentor Blair Cross conceded Tech "were the better team on the day".
Each side scored three tries but Tech laid a particularly sound platform up front through the class of props Mark Braidwood and Tolu Fahamokioa, who scored one of his side's two tries, and through the halves combination of Levi King and Kelvin Smith, who between them scored the rest of the points.
Clive No8 Lucas Goodin was rewarded for a particularly strong performance with two of his side's tries.
Havelock 18 Tamatea 9
The passion a continually-depleted Tamatea displayed trying to end a run of 50 consecutive Premier losses into its fourth season was barely anticipated by Havelock North who wanted and almost expected a bonus point for their first four-try bonus point of the season.
They were thus unable to prise the jewel out of Bill Matheson Park in Hastings, managing just two tries, and leaving Tamatea coach Adam McDonald wondering how close his team had come to doing a Leicester City and pulling off what could have been the biggest upset in Hawke's Bay Premier rugby for several years.
They started well enough, taking an early 6-0 lead with a dropped goal and a penalty to Jimmy Harris, and while it was 12-6 to Havelock North at halftime, Tamatea had twice headed off for would-be tries when the whistle went for off-side, and but for a decision by Ash Robinson to pass late in the second half instead of challenging the line, Tamatea could have broken the duck.
"He should have had a go," McDonald said. "We were certainly putting the heat on."
Havelock North manager Layton Onekawa recognised the impact of Tamatea's passion, and said while his side got good "first foot" ball in the backs when able to use it, they was frustrated by Tamatea's committed defence.
For Tamatea it was a handy fillip before this Saturday's match against Central in Waipukurau, where both sides will seek their first win of the season.