Te Puna showed they will be a force to be reckoned with in this year's Baywide Premier club season after a 30-14 win over Bigfoot Mount Maunganui Sports at Blake Park on Saturday.
Te Puna coach Aidan Kuka was quick to point out after the game "you don't win the competition in round three", but this was a performance to take notice of.
"Our game managers stood up today and controlled the game well. It was actually a test of our depth as well as we had five or six guys who would normally be in our front line out today," Kuka said.
"The competition is not won in April. It is won in June/July. We are very wary of that. We have had a very good first round the last couple of years and then we have faded so that is something we have planned for this year."
Not many teams win at Blake Park in any season but from the moment forward leader Kaydin Budd made an early charge towards the line this was going to be Te Puna's day.
Captain Te Aihe Toma had a fine game at halfback and is establishing one of the best inside back combinations with Reece Macdonald, who had a blinder at first-five. The former Arataki playmaker looks capable of stepping up to higher levels, making some clean breaks and kicking for goal with assurance.
Te Puna led 13-0 at halftime thanks to a try to prop Wally Mill after playing into a freshening breeze. The Mounties stormed back straight after the halftime break with a try to Matty Axtens and conversion to Coby Miln to close the gap to 13-7.
With Te Puna reduced to 14 players after a second yellow card for repeated offending and a high tackle, which referee Sam Fellow had no choice but to award, Mount had the momentum.
Then a moment of magic from Macdonald set up the try of the match that essentially won it for Te Puna. He skipped through the Mount defence deep in his half, sprinted clear to the Mount 22, linked well with winger Hunter Mokomoko, who put Jayjay Su'emai in for a spectacular five-pointer.
Mount closed the gap to 20-14 with a forward surge over the line but a Macdonald dropped goal and final try to Tane Tuhakaraina put paid to any comeback hopes.
Mount assistant coach Steve Miln admitted Te Puna outplayed his side.
"They took those early opportunities and going into the wind in the second half made it a lot harder to try and peg it back. They won the breakdown, their lineout functioned really well but it was around the ruck they dominated.
"They interpreted it a little bit better than we did and our penalty count was very high early on. If you keep giving them looks it is going to be a long day at the office."
In other games, it was another humiliating day for Eastern Bay rugby with Whakatane Marist beaten 107-7 by Rangataua Sports and Paroa losing 92-12 by Greerton Marist. Tauranga Sports thrashed Rotoiti 58-18, Te Puke Sports defeated Ngongotaha 62-7 and Whakarewarewa beat Arataki 41-19.
Greerton Marist 92 Paroa 12, Tauranga Sports 58 Rotoiti 18, Te Puna 30 Mount Maunganui 14, Rangataua 107 Whakatane Marist 7, Te Puke Sports 62 Ngongotaha 7, Whakarewarewa 41 Arataki 19.
Te Teko 55 Papamoa 15, Marist St Michael's 45 Poroporo 22, Opotiki 55 Ruatoki 22, Rangiuru 51 Kahukura 5, Waikite 31 Waimana 19, Murupara 27 Judea 24.
Greerton Marist 73 Paroa 0, Te Puna 31 Mount Maunganui 12, Rangataua 70 Whakatane Marist 0, Te Puke Sports 33 Ngongotaha 12, Arataki 38 Whakarewarewa 10, Tauranga Sports v Rotoiti — no result posted.