Give the "Big Improvers" tag in Hawke's Bay's premier rugby league competition to Omahu Huia.
A week after being walloped 58-14 by defending champions Bridge Pa, Omahu Huia pipped Dannevirke Tigers 54-48 at the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park in Hastings on Saturday after trailing 30-10 at halftime.
Omahu co-coaches Henry Heke and Aki Renata realised after the Bridge Pa defeat their side had to be strengthened and among their newcomers last weekend was former Cook Islands and Hastings Rugby and Sports union player Ioane Ioane who was the player of the match.
The 29-year-old fullback scored 28 points with three tries and eight conversions from 10 attempts at goal. Heke pointed out there was an extra incentive for the Fernhill-based club to deliver at the weekend.
"We dedicated the match to Nan [Omahu club stalwart Nan Nuku] who passed away on Friday. We've had some big losses in recent months with Maurce [former New Zealand Maori rep Cook] and another stalwart Tom Tuhi also passing and we reminded the boys how much people like them have done for the club in the past.
"At the same time I must thank God that rugby league is a game of two halves. At halftime I told the boys not to panic, be patient and respect the ball when we are on attack. I also emphasised the need to tie up the ball and stop their second-phase play when we were on defence," former New Zealand Universities rep Heke said.
Props Richard Gillies and 18-year-old Henry Tapiata and centre David Neho joined Ioane as the pick of the Omahu players. Ioane's brothers, Kavana and Tahi, captain John-Harley Wong, Clark Lipani, Debdon Keil and Petera Kahui-Ariki also scored tries for Omahu and Kavana Ioane kicked a conversion.
Other premier games saw Bridge Pa beat Kahuranaki 40-24 and Tamatea pip Napier Panthers 38-36. Bridge Pa and Tamatea are the only teams on two wins after two rounds, Omahu and Dannevirke have a win and a loss while Panthers and Kahuranaki have recorded two losses.
Bridge Pa and Tamatea remain unbeaten in the women's competition after respective 38-26 and 44-18 wins over Hastings Rugby and Sports and Omahu Huia.
The Waka Leonard-coached Maraenui team enhanced its favourite's tag in the reserve grade with an 80-4 thrashing of Omahu Huia. Other games in the grade saw Bridge Pa beat Clive 42-40 and Flaxmere beat MAC 50-22.
Leonard, 78, is in his 43rd year of coaching and has won 19 Hawke's Bay premier men's titles. He is the most respected league coach in the province and Saturday's score was another warning that it is going to take a mighty effort for any team to beat any side with this wily old fox at the helm.