Nathan Harris was preparing to start at hooker for the All Blacks against the Wallabies in Sydney last August when his knee ruptured at training.
The ACL on his right knee was seriously damaged ending his All Blacks aspirations and his season.
It came after a broken ankle and concussion had earlier halted the All Blacks caps for 24-year-old hooker Harris who is regarded as the best scrummaging hooker in the country.
But after eight long months of post-surgery recovery, Harris finally got his boots on again to start for his beloved Te Puke Sports against Rangataua Sports at Murray Salt Stadium on Saturday.
In front of a large contingent of family, friends and loyal Te Puke supporters, Harris got through the first half unscathed before being subbed as per instructions from the Chiefs coaches.
There was time for a few trademark charges with the ball and deadly accuracy with his lineout throwing before he was replaced.
He was clearly relieved to have come through the first vital 40 minutes of his comeback that he hopes will see him back playing for the Chiefs in time for the match against the British and Irish Lions on June 20.
"It is just good to be back out there with the boys seven and a half months since my actual surgery. It has been a long time. I was feeling pretty nervous and had a couple of sleepless nights," Harris said.
"I didn't do that much work out there today but just wanted to make sure my knee was right. It was good to get out there and make a few tackles and make a few runs."
Harris may have another club game next week before he rejoins the Chiefs but will not be rushing back.
"I have to make sure I get my knee 100 per cent right and obviously I am not quite there yet. I just want to absolutely nail my role."
The Lions game has been a beacon of hope for Harris through his long, lonely months of rehabilitation. More than anything he wants to run out for the Chiefs against the Lions in Hamilton.
"It has always been front of mind for me. When I got injured I was gutted to not play the Rugby Championship (for the All Blacks) but the main goal was the Lions.
"They only come once in 12 years so it is obviously a big dream. I am just going to take each day as it comes and if it happens, it happens. I just have to make sure I do right by my body and make sure I tick all the boxes."
With Harris helping secure a dominant scrum, Te Puke led 15-6 at halftime against Rangataua with a try to Luke Campbell set up by impressive new fullback Josh Robertson-Weepu (yes Piri's nephew), who did not miss a kick at goal all game.
When Te Puke jumped out to a 32-6 lead with 20 minutes to go it looked all over but the defending Baywide champions fought back well guided by Ruki Tipuna. Two quick converted tries had them trailing 32-20 with all the momentum but a late penalty to Robertson-Weepu ended the contest 35-20.
BOPRU Results April 29
Premier: Te Puke Sports 35 Rangataua 20, Te Puna 56 Whakatane Marist 8, Mount Maunganui 89 Poroporo 0, Greerton Marist 20 Tauranga Sports 20, Whakarewarewa 27 Arataki 8, Rotoiti v Paroa called off due to player injury.
Division One: Judea 21 Kahukura 12, Te Teko 36 Katikati 12, Waikite 36, Ruatoki 10, Marist St Michaels 25 Opotiki 24, Rangiuru 29 Waimana 27, Ngongotaha 56 Papamoa 22.
Development: Rangataua 25 Te Puke Sports 21, Te Puna 74 Whakatane Marist 5, Tauranga Sports 34 Greerton Marist 20, Whakarewarewa 13 Arataki 0, Rotoiti 50 Paroa 28, Mount Maunganui won by default from Poroporo.