Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby lock Tom Parsons had every right to give himself a pat on the back after today's pre-season win against the Manawatu Turbos at Napier's Park Island.
"My first game in just over a month and I manage 80 minutes," Parsons said with a huge grin after the Magpies' 41-33 victory.
That's not all Parsons, 28, did against the province he represented during the 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons. He scored a crucial try in the 71st minute to put the hosts ahead for the first time and produced plenty of grunt in the engine room.
"It's always good to play guys you know and give out a bit of niggle," Parsons said.
"I haven't played since cracking a fibula in our last game against them. I was told I needed three to four weeks of rehab. It's been four and a half weeks now so everything has gone to plan," Parsons said referring to the July 4 match in Palmerston North.
"The break has probably helped me. I had a lot of minutes with my Central club so it did me good to have a spell as I am coming into the Mitre 10 Cup campaign refreshed," Parsons explained.
Having played for the Magpies during the 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons before heading west, Parsons is well placed to gauge where the Magpies are at nine days out from their Championship opener against the Southland Stags in Invercargill.
"I'm really happy with the progress we have made. There are a lot of young fellas in the squad and it has really helped this week with the experienced boys coming back from Super Rugby this week. The team is tracking nicely and we've put in a lot of hard yards because we want to make the province proud.
"At the same time it is important we focus on one game at a time," Parsons added.
To be fair the hosts did little to please their fans in the first half. The conceding of soft turnovers including four lost lineouts, soft tries and soft penalties allowed the Turbos to establish a 21-5 halftime lead.
The Magpies didn't score until the 39th minute when flanker Devan Flanders scored handy to the posts. When first five-eighth Tiaan Falcon missed the conversion attempt from in front of the posts that summed up the Magpies' suspect first 40.
However the fact they recovered to secure the win during the second half is an indication this season's squad boasts the necessary character and ammunition to achieve head coach Mark Ozich's goal of a semifinal spot in the Championship.
The introduction of captain, Maori All Black and Highlanders hooker Ash Dixon, Chiefs lock Michael Allardice and Chiefs halfback Brad Weber was influential in the comeback.
Although in saying that Weber would have been kicking himself had the Turbos capitalised when he kicked some well won possession away in the 78th minute when he didn't have to. Magpies winger Mason Emerson continued his outstanding club form and was the hosts' player of the match.
Starting halfback Folau Fakatava was again slick in all aspects of play.
"I was really pleased with the manner in which we bounced back. We could have folded," Ozich said afterwards.
"We're still growing this group and it's important to give our young guys a feel of the speed at this level which we did. Yes there were some overthrows at lineouts but we're still working on our links and combinations.
"From here we need to focus on taking our opportunities more and keep working to get better."
Ozich pointed out time spent together during this weekend's camp where relationships will continue to be built should prove beneficial.
Experienced lock Nick Crosswell and promising prop Sione Asi impressed in the Turbos pack. Highlanders midfield back Rob Thompson and second five-eighth James Tofa, who scored two tries and kicked four conversions from five attempts at goal, were the pick of the Turbos backs.
Heartstopper: Turbos fullback Junior Ialoifi's tackle on Magpies winger Mason Emerson in the 23rd minute. It was a try-saver.
Turning point: Magpies lock Tom Parsons' try in the 71st minute. This put the hosts ahead 36-33 and they were never going to lose it from there.
Player of the match: Emerson. Electric on attack, busy off the ball, gutsy on defence and his 67th minute try was a cracker.
Hawke's Bay Magpies 41 (Devan Flanders, Michael Buckley, Kianu Kereru-Symes, Mason Emerson, Tiaan Falcon, Tom Parsons, Nathan Tweedy tries; Falcon 3 cons), Manawatu Turbos 33 (James Tofa 2, Junior Laloifi 2, Sione Asi tries; Tofa 4 cons). HT: Turbos 21-5.