Some might argue Napier Technical lock Elijah Martin has left his quest to secure a Hawke's Bay Magpies Mitre Cup rugby squad berth a little late.
After all he's 25 and four locks, Geoff Cridge, Michael Allardice, Tom Parsons and Isaia Walker-Leawere, have already been contracted for the Magpies this season. But Martin is happy to present a case for selection in case he is required as proved during the Magpies' 31-24 pre-season win against the Tasman Mako in Wellington today.
"Elijah was outstanding and worked really well with Geoff [Hurricanes lock Cridge]. He knows he is a couple of injuries away from a Mitre 10 Cup spot but for a new guy coming in he did so much," Magpies head coach Mark Ozich said afterwards.
"It's definitely a big step up from club level and my lungs got a bit of a tester but I'm loving it," Martin said.
"I'm learning heaps and taking it all on board. This is the most serious I've been about making the Magpies and I'm pretty focused," said Martin who captained the Hawke's Bay under-16s to Hurricanes region title glory in 2016 before going on to represent the Bay at under-18, 20 and Saracens levels.
"I'm in my third year as a technology teacher at Karamu High School now. With my work life sorted and I can focus on the Magpies and keep working hard in case I get an opportunity which I will take with both hands. That Geoff [Cridge] he was a beast today.
"He's got a big ticker," Martin added.
Ozich was thrilled with the effort his lads produced.
"Tasman had a pretty good side but our boys were quick to get off the ground and into the defensive line to keep making tackles. Obviously we still need to do a bit of work on dominating space and getting in to slow the ball down but our attack worked well, we were able to produce quick ball, show our skills and score some good tries.
"Yes we were a bit rusty because it was our first game after just three or four trainings together. But there were pleasing signs and it was pretty positive," Ozich said.
"Obviously the detail around scrums and lineouts organisation hasn't been covered yet. That will come with the more time we spend together. We wanted to see good physicality levels today and we saw that."
Promising Taradale flanker Iakaopo Mapu, who has scored 11 tries in club rugby, scored two today. Clive flanker Josh Kaifa, who only recently returned from injury, had a massive impact on the match according to Ozich.
Out in the backs Hastings Rugby and Sports second five-eighth Neria Fomai, who is the fittest he has been after spending most of the summer with the Warriors NRL club, and Taradale winger Ollie Sapsford tidied up well and shut down Tasman's space with plenty of vigour.
MAC loosie Solomone Funaki, who played his first club game last weekend after returning from a nine-week injury spell, impressed with his impact off the bench. Napier Technical prop Tim Farrell and Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports prop Pouri Rakete-Stones, who were both members of the 2017 World Championship-winning Baby Blacks team, shone with their second half impact.
The Magpies next pre-season match will be against Wairarapa Bush at the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park on Queen's Birthday.
Hawke's Bay Magpies 31 (Iakopo Mapu 2, Saia Paese, Solomone Funaki, Penikolo Latu tries; Lincoln McClutchie 3 cons), Tasman Mako 24. HT: 19-5.