Discipline and focus were the telling factors in Whanganui Maori opening their campaign with a comfortable 33-5 win over the Marton Samoans in the curtain-raiser game at Cooks Gardens on Saturday.
Both sides were looking forward to a good hit out ahead of bigger matches to come - Marton off to a tournament in Wellington, Whanganui hoping to defend the Tuera Shield against Taranaki Maori at Yarrow Stadium this weekend.
Whanganui opened their account when they spotted the gap and flanker Dale Akuhata was on hand to score.
Marton flanker Popo Leota made a strong run in reply, but Marton just could not control the ball in Whanganui's dangerzone, struggling at the breakdown where they either lost possession or gave away penalties.
Whanganui centre Jaye Flaws busted the line but was collared high, and from the attacking penalty, prop Gabriel Hakaraia went close before halfback Kahl Elers-Green spotlighted what would be an fine performance by diving fully extended from the ruck to the corner post.
Like Hakaraia, flanker Cade Robinson was coming back from the Steelform Wanganui squad and imposed himself with a bone rattling tackle and then a great run after claiming his team's 22m drop out.
Elers-Green chipped into open spaces and winger Lachlan Blackstock claimed it to step off both feet and drag two tacklers over for 21-0 after 23 minutes.
Marton looked to keep the ball alive but eventually the passes came unstuck, while tempers were beginning to simmer in the close contact.
After halftime, Whanganui worked forward as No8 Kieran Hussey attacked and offloaded to put winger Shaquille Waara over untouched, with second-five Ethan Robinson presented his fourth straight-forward conversion.
Marton lost prop Toelau and then lock Alex Mulipola to the sinbin, and after sustained buildup on the tryline, Whanganui had the overlap with Robinson linking with reserve hooker Keanu Puki-Kaa to send Akuhata away to the corner flag for his double.
However, Whanganui took their foot off the pedal and Marton spent the rest of the game on attack - starting with their consolation try after flanker Talosaga Mikaele ran through and open gap to put centre Eric Sagapolutele in the clear, beating his tackler to score.
Marton could have scored further points, but both sides dropped the ball inside Whanganui's 22m, with Marton acknowledging at the aftermatch function that more commitment was needed to training instead of just relying on natural flair.
Whanganui Maori 33 (Dale Akuhata 2, Kahl Elers-Green, Lachlan Blackstock, Shaquille Waara tries; Ethan Robinson 4 con) bt Marton Samoans 5 (Eric Sagapolutele try). HT: 21-0.