Take a bow Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby captain Ash Dixon and his troops.
Dixon produced a player-of-the-match performance as the Magpies opened their Mitre 10 Cup Championship campaign with a 31-13 victory against the Manawatu Turbos in atrocious weather conditions in Palmerston North tonight. In addition to securing the maximum competition points the Magpies also retained the Kel Tremain Memorial Trophy with their fourth consecutive victory against the Turbos.
Dixon scored two tries, made 23 metres on the carry and four tackles. However it was his superb leadership in the conditions which will be remembered most from the encounter.
At the same time Dixon wasn't entirely happy with the visitors' performance.
"We still got a fair bit wrong and started dumb. Then we got to play at the right end of the field," Dixon said afterwards.
While Dixon got the player-of-the-match award fellow forwards, No 8 Gareth Evans, openside flanker Brendon O'Connor, lock Tom Parsons, who was playing against his former team, and halfback Folau Fakatava were close behind him. The organisation and patience of the Magpies' lineout drive was top shelf and it brought back memories of how well it operated when O'Connor had his last stint with the Magpies from 2013 to 2015.
Magpies head coach Mark Ozich was naturally delighted with the win.
"Those were tough conditions out there. We come from an environment where we had to have irrigation on our training fields during the week so they wouldn't be too hard. It took us a while to adjust to not having to play too much rugby ... we just had to keep things simple."
Centre Sam McNicol, who collected an ankle injury was the Magpies only major injury concern. He was having X-rays after the match and more will be known about the injury tomorrow.
With the wind behind them the Turbos opened the scoring in the first minute with a try to second five-eighth Hamish Northcott after a clever kick from Maori All Black first five-eighth Otere Black and superb handling in the wet from winger Te Rangatira Waitokia and Maori All Black centre Rob Thompson. Black added the conversion.
Brendon O'Connor scored the visitors first try in the 11th minute off a lineout drive. The Turbos extended their lead when fullback Sam Malcolm slotted a penalty from 51 metres.
Another successful lineout drive from the Magpies saw Maori All Black captain Dixon score in the 37th minute and the score remained 10-all until the halftime whistle. This lineout drive formula delivered Dixon his second try four minutes into the second half.
Second five-eighth Danny Toala succeeded with his first conversion attempt after replacing first five-eighth Lincoln McClutchie as the goalkicker.
Magpies and Maori All Black prop Pouri Rakete-Stones gave the visitors the bonus point for four tries after breaking away from a lineout drive in the 55th minute. Toala again added the extras and the Magpies led 24-10.
The Turbos remained in the hunt for a bonus point for finishing within seven points when Black slotted a penalty from in front in the 64th minute. However Fakatava extinguished those hopes with his 67th minute try from close range which Toala converted.
Halfback and captain Jamie Booth was the best of the Turbos players, particularly in the first half.
Heartstopper: Magpies No 8 Gareth Evans head clash with Turbos second five-eighth Hamish Northcott in the 20th minute. Fortunately for the Magpies he was able to return to the field after being stitched up.
Turning point: When Magpies prop Pouri Rakete-Stones scored and second five-eighth Danny Toala converted in the 56th minute to give the visitors a 24-10 lead. The Turbos were never going to recover from that deficit.
Player of the match: Magpies captain and hooker Ash Dixon. Two tries and superb leadership in atrocious weather conditions.
Scorers: Hawke's Bay 31 (Brendon O'Connor, Ash Dixon 2, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Folau Fakatava tries; Danny Toala 3 cons), Manawatu 13 (Hamish Northcott try; Otere Black con; Sam Malcolm, Black pens). HT: 10-all.