"Welcome to the hill Sonny Bill. You are entering a red card free zone."

The sign as you enter Bombay set the scene nicely for Sonny Bill Williams' return to rugby.

This small South Auckland rugby club boasts four senior teams and has won the premier competition the past four years.

It is a fry cry from Wellington's Westpac Stadium, where Williams was sent off six weeks ago in the second British and Irish Lions test; a far cry from Sydney where he will run out for the All Blacks next week.

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The main field at Bombay is adjoined by broccoli paddocks and grazing cattle. A shipping container, aka the corporate lounge, received so much publicity club patrons were too worried to open its doors.

But after a much-discussed four-match suspension the soggy pitch, muddy ball, small local crowd and Counties B team trial match seemed a perfect fit for Williams. He certainly seemed to appreciate the simplicity associated with the chance to pull the boots on again.

There's something special about seeing All Blacks return to the grassroots, where it all began.

Williams is an attraction wherever he goes, in whatever sport he chooses. This was no different.

Williams was only supposed to play the first half at second five-eighth but enjoyed himself so much he slogged it out for around 65 minutes.

Williams was only supposed to play the first half at second five-eighth but enjoyed himself so much he slogged it out for around 65 minutes. Photo / Nick Reed
Williams was only supposed to play the first half at second five-eighth but enjoyed himself so much he slogged it out for around 65 minutes. Photo / Nick Reed

And from the moment he sat down on the bench, clearly buggered after traipsing round on a heavy field, kids flocked in droves to get their picture taken and nab his prized autograph.

"It was awesome to get out and play the game that I love and also get back to some grassroots footy," Williams said. "I don't know how often the fields get looked after but it was pretty tough conditions out there. It was good to get my hands on the ball again.

"You just chuck a bit of deep heat on and you're ready to go. The boys were really good - I know a few of them. It was good to get back out there.

"It's been a long wait but it seemed to fly by. I got to spend some time with my family; with my girls. Now I'm back out there doing what I love."

Pre-match Williams emerged in a Bombay jacket - something locals took pride in given he is formally connected with the Puni club situated over the Pukekohe hill.

"It was awesome to get out and play the game that I love and also get back to some grassroots footy," Williams said. Photo / Nick Reed

During warm-ups he was just one of the boys, offering encouragement and direction as his side ran backline moves you would see at any Saturday club rugby match.

Williams was heavily involved from the outset; his large frame standing out in the backline.

When he carried the opposition struggled to lock up his arms and he happily offloaded at will.

His stint wasn't mistake free. One tackle was clearly high; he lost the ball in contact once and missed one tackle which led to a try. But his other impacts were telling. He set up a second half try for the left wing; was denied one of his own for a double movement and put in some crunching hits, along with being trapped at the bottom of a fair few proper rucks.

In a competitive trial his team eventually came out on top 42-28, and Williams then led them in a post-match huddle chant.

The warm applause as he left the field said it all. Job complete. Now for the Wallabies, and no more red cards.

"Hopefully I put my best foot forward now. I've got to train hard for selection. It's going to be a tough battle over there. We leave tomorrow. It's like my second home over there. My wife is from there. I always have good times when I go back so I'm looking forward to that... and a bit more sunshine."