Steelform Wanganui were finally able to tick the win column for a 2017 preseason match and showed they still have plenty of punch out wide after a strong first quarter set them up for a 33-14 vicotry over Hawkes Bay Saracens on Saturday.
Putting behind the disappointments of the mid-season games and starting afresh for the upcoming Mitre 10 Heartland Championship, Wanganui hit their hosts hard in the opening 25 minutes at Tremaine Field in Napier.
In wet conditions, the backs handled the ball well and winger Samu Kubunavanua was the man on the end of the chain, ultimately scoring four tries.
Blindside flanker Tremaine Gilbert, determined to stake his claim as a regular starter this campaign, got the other try, while first-five Craig Clare and his replacement Dane Whale shared the conversions.
A little bit of the momentum left Wanganui's side in the second half as they tried new combinations and the big Saracens outfit began to rumble forward, but visitors were still willing to do the tough stuff on defence - restricting the hosts to two tries.
"Probably always to be expected when you're making those changes," said assistant coach Jason Hamlin.
"The first 25 minutes were brilliant. Good speed, maintained possession to get through.
"While we didn't get a hell of a lot of points in the second half, they showed they defended very well."
As the backs coach, Hamlin was pleased to see the new combinations functioning, as Clare reverted back to first five after a club season at centre, while new centre Kaveni Dabenaise made a good midfield partnership with Timoci Seruwalu.
The in-form Kubunavanua was there "doing the tidy up stuff".
"He worked for [the tries] but they were pretty much created for him and finished off like a good winger should," said Hamlin.
Hamlin also had praise for Gilbert, as he and fellow flanker Jamie Hughes now take on added workload after the retirement of Peter Rowe.
"He's been training well, he's played well today, you can't speak highly enough of him.
"Good to see boys putting their hands up."
Hughes covered the first half while new understudy Angus Middleton got his chance in the second stanza.
The other young loose forward Lake Ah Chong would have gone on earlier than he did, but Wanganui had to cover the sinbinning of prop Raymond Salu, who had only just jogged on himself but infringed after the team had already received a final warning about professional fouls.
Hamlin said the fitness was not quite there to maintain the game plan that had worked so well in the first half, but the coaching staff got a good idea of what key areas to fix up at training this week.
One veteran very excited for the match was the new Wanganui captain in hooker Roman Tutauha.
"It was a big honour and a big privilege that the coaches have placed in me to try and step up to that role," he said.
Tutauha said the Saracens played with the pride expected from players in a professional union, as they had the depth on the bench to lift the intensity in the second half, with Wanganui having to step up on defence.
"They have been the last couple of years - very physical and tough.
"Definitely, coming up to their home, they actually threw everything they had at us.
"It wasn't here and there, it was the 80 minutes. We were able to combat the physicality."
Wanganui will play their last preseason match against Horowhenua-Kapiti for the Bruce Steel Memorial Cup this Saturday.
Wanganui 33 (Samu Kubunavanua 4, Tremaine Gilbert tries; Craig Clare 3 con, Dane Whale con) bt Hawke's Bay Saracens 14. HT: 26-0.