Tauranga Sports finally ended Te Puna's season-long, unbeaten run with a memorable 32-31 victory at Maramatanga Park on Saturday.
The classic game of two halves saw a fired-up Tauranga side cut Te Puna to bits in the opening 20 minutes to set up an impressive 29-7 lead at the break, before the home side took control in the second stanza.
Tauranga defended bravely for most of the second spell. Only when fatigue had set in and multiple changes altered the team dynamic did Tauranga crack, with replacement halfback Jordy Stone crossing for two late tries to gain his side a valuable bonus point.
From the opening kick-off, it was clear Tauranga were in no mood to let Te Puna dictate terms. Surprisingly weak Te Puna defence gave the visitors the early momentum and some attacking magic from brothers George, Josh and Steve Honey saw Steve in for the opening try.
A quick lineout throw gave fullback Josh Honey the chance to show his speed and class with a clever back-flick sending winger Tyrone Keith in at the corner. More tardy defence saw Keith run 70m unchecked from the kick-off and three phases later he had his second try.
Pomare Pearson scored under the bar to give Te Puna's large home crowd some hope but a sharp finish from Josh Honey put Tauranga well clear at the break.
Te Puna needed to score early from the restart and they did through winger Hunter Mokomoko, after a smart pass by second-five Will Ngatai.
John Dodd kicked a fine penalty from 40m into the win to stretch the lead to 32-12 but that was the end of Tauranga's scoring as Te Puna stormed home.
Dynamic lock Kaydin Budd crashed over for a try and then the late brace from Stone put Te Puna within a point but they lost the battle with the referee's watch.
Tauranga head coach Euan Mackintosh was delighted with how well his side started.
"For probably the first 30 or 40 minutes I was very happy with our attack. The game plan we talked about for the last week about coming here and what we were trying to do to them was perfect.
"But to finish 32-31 shows you can't have patches in a game that are good and then switch off and fall asleep. But for us, it is a huge stepping stone in round two to have that momentum now."
Te Puna's Hamish Boyce led his team out in his 100th senior game in the blue and black jersey.
"Tauranga came out firing in the first half and we didn't quite match it. We turned around and showed a bit of resilience in the second half," he said.
"I am happy to get over the mark for the hundred games but still disappointed with the result. We will get back into it at training on Tuesday and look forward to Te Puke."
Te Puke Sports are the new competition leaders after they defeated Whakarewarewa 46-17, Greerton Marist beat Rangataua 30-24 and Mount Maunganui Sports bounced back to form by beating Rotoiti 31-21 away.