Baywide Premier club rugby began on Saturday with a standalone match between hosts Rangataua Sports and Mount Maunganui Sports at Te Ariki Park.
Both teams did not fancy playing on Anzac Day so were allowed to play their round six match a week ahead of the season's official start next Saturday.
The Mounties started with a hiss and a roar to jump out to a 29-8 halftime lead but then had to defend desperately in the final stages to hold out the surging Papaka for a 29-22 win.
If the standard of running rugby on display is indicative of what is to come over the next few months then it will be a season to savour. It was like a giant game of sevens with kicking the ball a last resort and some young guns on display who could make a name for themselves this season.
Mount fielded club legend Steve Miln's son Coby at fullback, in his first year out of Hamilton Boys' High School's gun First XV, and ex-Tauranga Boys' College star Christian Kelly at centre who is home after finishing a commerce degree at Otago University.
Mount took all the early pressure from Rangataua who led 3-0 after 15 minutes but should have had a bigger advantage. Sparked by live wire halfback Jonty Wood, the new Mount backline cut some capers all over the park with four outstanding team tries finished off by Aaron Carroll, veteran Zar Lawrence, Kelly and Miln for a 29-8 lead at halftime.
With captain Matt Clutterbuck's sharp words ringing in their ears it was a different Rangataua side that dominated large stages of the second spell. Tries to Ross Taurima and Ezra Johnson and points from the boot of Joel Little got the home side to within a converted try of a draw.
But a few dropped passes and lack of composure meant they did not quite manage the late try they deserved on the run of play.
Rangataua assistant coach Ruki Tipuna says they have plenty to work on ahead of the visit of Tauranga Sports on Saturday.
"We have changed our whole defence and attacking set-ups. We have plenty of new systems so will have some teething problems hopefully not for too long. We did get caught out in the first half there but we ironed them out pretty well in the second half," he says.
"Most of it was about missed tackling which is disappointing but there's our work on."
Mount will be pleased with the physical effort from the forward pack and enterprise in the skilful backline in the opening 40 minutes but to not score any second-half points will be a concern.
Kelly is one of several new young players spread throughout the Western Bay clubs who will push for places in the Bay of Plenty Academy.
He enjoyed being back playing for the club where he played all his junior grade rugby.
"We are very pleased to come away with a win first up as it is hard to nab one from the Papaka here. We are really, really stoked with that first half and just managed to hold on in the end," Kelly says.
"Obviously the fields are a lot better up here (than Dunedin) and it is a lot more of a running game of footy with rough and tumble up in the forwards.
"It gets the lungs going."