Expect to see more depth in the Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby team's No 8 position this season after the arrival of Aucklander Josh Kaifa in the province.
Kaifa, 25, proved he will be a more-than-capable deputy to Hurricanes loosie Gareth Evans come Mitre 10 Cup time with an influential role in K9 Pet Foods Clive's first win of the season on Saturday, a 39-32 Tui Nash Cup round-five victory against MAC at Flaxmere Park.
Although short of match fitness, Kaifa, who played first-class rugby for Auckland last year, scored two tries, regularly busted the hosts defensive line and was tireless on defence during a player-of-the-match display.
"I'm here to give making the Magpies team a good crack. I went alright today but I've still go a lot of work to do on my fitness," Kaifa, the 2015 Auckland B team player-of-the-year, said afterwards.
"That was my first game in a month because my work as a cadet engineer with Downer has been my priority."
He pointed out the Clive team still has several key players to return from injury and will be more of a force in the second round.
Fellow newcomer, second five-eighth Sasa Tofilau, displayed some classy moments and could also prove to be useful at first-class level in future. Prop Etu Tuanaki also deserved his berth on head coach Vaine Maui's MVP list.
MAC coach Anthony Morley had every right to be disappointed with his troops' lack of leadership, patience and inability to build pressure through phases. Poor discpline again let the hosts down.
Excitement machine, fullback Johnny Ika, deserved his two tries. Loosie Fa'alemiga Selesele, before collecting an injury, and hooker Frank Tupuola had high workrates in the losing pack.
NOBM 67 Taradale 18
WIT Napier Old Boys Marist captain and openside flanker Chris Johnston enhanced his chances of Magpies selection with another quality performance during this Park Island romp.
"Chris can't do much more to get a contract and if he can't it would be a crying shame," NOBM head coach Craig Gowler said.
"He kept his cool when we were under the pump and he's so mature for a bloke who is only 26. Yes Taradale put the heat on us in the first half and deserved their 13-10 lead at the interval. But we hit the right channels in the second half and when poor discipline let Taradale down we were able to rub salt into their wounds," Gowler added.
Halfback Sam Weber combined well with first five-eighth Ellery Wilson and their ability to speed the game up was a feature of the Green Machine's 19th consecutive defence of the Hawke's Bay Challenge Shield. The previous record for consecutive defences in one tenure was 14 set by Taradale during the 2014 and '15 seasons.
Flanker Ricky Hayes was also dynamic for the hosts who recorded their 39th consecutive win in Hawke's Bay premier play. Tighthead prop Kelsey Miller, captain and No 8 Andrew Gardner and hooker Ellery Tareha were Taradale Rugby and Sports best.
Havelock North 35 Pirate 20
Progressive Meats Havelock North gave lock Bronson Primmer a winning 100th with this victory in the Anderson Park cross-over clash.
Primmer had his first game for the villagers in 2012. One of the team's coaches, former Magpie Adam Bradey, played 80 minutes at No 8 and was the player-of-the-match in his 152nd appearance for the side. Lock Sam Ulufonua was again full of authority in the winning pack and first five-eighth Teihana Brown was the pick of the Havelock North backs.
Tanalised Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports manager Charles Reid said his troops did well for 60 minutes before experiencing a flat patch. Prop Pouri Rakete-Stones and captain and No 8 Hamish Willis had huge workrates in the visiting pack and centre Al Momoisea was again full of enthusiasm in the Pirate backline.
Hastings 73 Tamatea 7
Forty seven unanswered points in the second spell were the key to this Elwood Park walloping handed out by Auto Super Shoppe Hastings Rugby and Sports.
"We played into the wind during the first half and in the second half we played the conditions well. We pinned them down in their half and produced some good one-on-one defence," Hastings co-manager James Rosenberg said.
Winger Thomas Agnew and fullback Jayden Rihia were enterprising Hastings backs. Props Aleki Vuki and Josiah Tavita-Metcalfe and No 8 Jason Long were a powerful trio in the winning pack.
Jarks Tamatea coach Matt Marsh was happy with his below-strength team's first half effort as they trailed 26-7 at halftime despite being on the receiving end of a 16-1 penalty count. Prop Mason Kean was again tireless for 80 minutes and flankers Jamie Muir and Hamiora Rowlands displayed the benefits of their vast experience.
Tech 87 Central 0
Altherm Window Systems Napier Technical manager Rod Cushing felt sorry for Northfuels Central during this Whitmore Park thrashing.
But sympathy wasn't the reason the Texans rested classy fullback JJ Taulagi after 50 minutes. He was told to save some petrol for his Hurricanes Development team's match against a touring Japanese XV tomorrow.
Centre Tane McGuire, winger Sebastian Visibia and openside flanker Slade Lange all earnt their entries on Cushing's MVP list. Central manager Ian Large said several key players including Magpies lock Tom Parsons and midfield back Pasqualle Dunn were unavailable for the match.
"Our forwards played well but the Tech backs were too big and strong and too classy for our backline."
Veteran No 8 Warwick Slingsby shone with his never-say-die approach for Central while prop Marcus Jackson, Magpies lock Ben Parsons and captain and openside flanker Tomo Fogarty were also gutsy.
Tech will host MAC in this weekend's quarterfinals. Defending champoions NOBM will host Clive, Havelock North will host Taradale and Hastings Rugby and Sports will host Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports.
Tamatea will host Central at the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park in the tussle for ninth place.