Centre Timo Vaiusu is seven games short of 100 for Hastings Rugby and Sports in Hawke's Bay's premier club rugby competition.
But he is playing with the enthusiasm of a first-season player. He is the fittest and fastest he has been in his eight seasons with the team and his midfield combination with second five-eighth Neria Fomai was a key factor in their 27-20 win against Progressive Meats Havelock North in their seventh round Tui Nash Cup fixture at Anderson Park today.
"I'm just trying to do my best for the boys. Put the improved pace and fitness levels down to all the work I'm doing in the Magpies wider training group and the advice from that bloke," Vaiusu explained as Magpies head coach Mark Ozich wandered over to congratulate him on his display.
The only aspect of the 26-year-old Kimi Ora Community School's teacher aide's performance which wasn't up to scratch was his goalkicking. Vaiusu slotted only one of his three attempts at goal before substitute first five-eighth Star Timu took over the job.
"I'm only the No 3 goal kicker behind Danny [Toala] and I [Ioane Ioane] who were both away this week and I didn't have much time to practise," Vaiusu said.
Hooker Jacob Devery and openside flanker Jardine Chung Ching had high workrates in the winning pack. The below-strength Progressive Meats Havelock North side paid the price for a mistake-ridden first half.
However the villagers deserve praise for fighting back and securing a bonus point after trailing 17-3 at halftime. United States flanker Tony Lamborn displayed the benefits of his extensive first class career while No 8 Albert Hemopo also had memorable patches in the host pack.
First five-eighth Matt Hill did well considering he is normally a winger or fullback and the Paewai twins Kalin and Jesse had some classy moments in the villagers backline.
Taradale 48 Clive 7
Samoan No 8 Iakopo Mapu scored four tries as unbeaten competition leaders Taradale Rugby and Sports dominated this Farndon Park encounter.
While Mapu's player of the match display was impressive Taradale co-coach Tim Combs said the most pleasing aspect of the victory was the Mighty Maroons defence.
"We had a good press defence and drifted when we had to. It was definitely the most accurate it has been all season."
Chilean openside flanker Cristobal Niedmann again boxed well above his weight for Taradale. First five-eighth Brad Truesdale shone in general play and did well to convert five of the visitors eight tries and slot a penalty.
Lock Donovan Mataira was again the pick of the Tremains Andrew Clark Clive team. First five-eighth Tama Dunn and Papua New Guinean winger Sam Kuri also deserved their entries on head coach Vaine Maui's MVP list.
"We knew Taradale would be up for this game and it's easy to see why they are top of the table," Maui said.
Central 27 Tamatea 7
Northfuels Central lock Scott Mathis hadn't played any rugby this season because of his dairy farming commitments.
But Mathis, who does well in dairy farmer of the year competitions, made up for his absences with a player-of-the-game performance in this victory at Waipukurau's Central Park.
"Scott played the full 80 and did everything right," Central manager Ian Large said.
Fellow lock Ben Parsons, flanker Jason Cutbush and prop Cam Pratt were also inspirational in the winning engine room. Fullback Karl Lepelaars had his best outing of the season for Central.
Tamatea coach Levi Armstrong was impressed with the improvement his troops displayed from last week's 76-22 loss to Tech. Harris Solomon, who filled in for Magpies pivot Lincoln McClutchie, who is providing injury cover for the Highlanders, was the best of the visitors.
Fullback Jimi Harris and hooker Petera Ariki were others to shine for Tamatea.
"We building well for the Maddison Trophy comp. We've got Central in the first round of the Maddison Trophy so it was good to have a look at them at this time of the season," Tamatea coach Levi Armstrong said.
Tech 25 Pirate 17
Altherm Window Systems Napier Technical's superior hunger levels were the key to this victory at Whitmore Park.
"They were definitely hungrier. But 18-17 would have been a better indication of the score ... I'm still scratching my head about the penalty try we conceded at the end of the game," Tanalised Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports manager Charles Reid said.
His Texans counterpart Cyril Whitburn said it was an entertaining clash and praised the visitors' never-say-die approach. Openside flanker Slayde Lange was a workaholic in the winning pack which was again well lead by lock Elijah Martin. Fullback Michael Fox was enterprising in the Tech backline.
Props Lance Tupaea and Sean Morrison provided plenty of grunt to the Pirate pack while centre and co-captain Hayden Hann functioned well in the visiting backline.
Defending champions WIT Napier Old Boys Marist beat MAC by default. MAC head coach Anthony Morley said a combination of injuries and players away for Easter forced the default.
"We had a lack of frontrowers and the decision was made in the interests of player welfare. We were not going to field an inexperienced pack against a team which is dynamic in that area ... we promise not to default again this season," he added.
Hastings Rugby and Sports 27 (T Vaiusu, G Kautai, N Fomai, A Vuki, J Scales tries; Vaiusu con) Havelock North 20 (C Harmer, T Hape, S Tuitufu tries; M Hill pen, con). HT: 17-3.
Taradale 48 (I Mapu 4, J McPherson, A Tuck, M Eden tries; B Truesdale 5 cons, pen), Clive 7 (P Bassett try; E Collins con). HT: 27-7.
Central 27 (T Taylor, T Fogarty, K Drury-Hawkins, M Konia, K Lepelaars tries; Drury-Hawkins con) Tamatea 7 (P Kireka try; H Solomon con). HT: 17-0.
Napier Technical 25 (M Fox, J Faia, penalty try tries; L Shaw con, 2 pens) Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports 17 (M Murtha, L Odumessi tries; Z Clarke, G Tryon cons; Tryon pen). HT: 10-7.
Napier Old Boys Marist beat MAC by default.