While pre-season results mean little in the grand scheme of things, the Bay of Plenty Steamers gained some useful early momentum with a 43-12 win over North Harbour on Saturday.
The Steamers have plenty to prove in the Mitre 10 Cup this season. Last year, they finished fifth in the Championship division with four wins and six losses, missing out on a semifinals spot by three points.
Head coach Clayton McMillan said Saturday's win at North Harbour Stadium was a good start.
"For a first hit out, it was pretty good actually. We didn't have any high expectations of seeing anything other than some intent, particularly around our collisions and showing a lot of energy. I thought we showed both of those in spades so it was a good day at the office."
He pre-season games are a valuable opportunity for the coaching staff to get a good look at their players and there were plenty putting their hands up.
"They're important to give everybody a fair shake of the tree in terms of establishing themselves as a starting player or in the match day 23. It's important to build some combinations and see if the things you have been practising all year are going to work or not.
"Based on yesterday's performance, if we stay injury free the coaches are going to have some selection headaches which is a good headache to have.
"I don't think any one individual stood out, I think everyone had their moments. There were some people I thought were a bit behind the eight ball who played really well and others who have been particularly impressive the last couple of weeks that were a little bit quieter but still did really well.
"Consistency of performance is probably the key, everybody played well yesterday but will they play well next week and the week after and the week after. That's the challenge of Mitre 10 Cup."
Injuries played a big part in the Steamers missing out on semifinals last year.
"Hopefully we stay injury free, it's a little bit out of our control. We feel like we've got reasonable depth, a good balance of some old heads and some young guys who have come through the academy system and performed individually really well at New Zealand Under-20s.
"We've got a new coaching group who have all come with some different ideas so we expect people will see that when we see the team play."
McMillan said there had been a positive atmosphere within the team since they came together.
"A lot of guys, particularly the ones who have come from club rugby, spend a long time waiting for July and August to roll around and it's here. I like to think we generally have a pretty good atmosphere but it's been particularly energetic in the last couple of weeks and it's a positive sign."
We didn't have any high expectations of seeing anything other than some intent, particularly around our collisions and showing a lot of energy.
This weekend, the Steamers will participate in the pre-season Game of Three Halves in Katikati during which they will play 40 minutes against Wellington and 40 minutes against Counties Manukau.
"We'll see a step forward hopefully - the bar was at a pretty reasonable height after the weekend but we know it's a pre-season game and North Harbour would've been trying things and combinations.
"You just have to stay humble, keep your feet grounded and keep working hard to find little area of your game to improve. If you do that you give yourself the best chance of winning games," McMillan said.
Game of Three Halves
When: Saturday, August 3 from 12.30pm
Where: Katikati Rugby Club
Who: Bay of Plenty, Wellington and Counties Manukau