Josh Kaifa gave the thumbs up to a new-look loose forward trio after the Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby side's pre-season win against Waikato in Taupo today.
"We had some new rules to get used to. But we put a lot of work into them during the last couple of weeks and we got the rewards," Kaifa said after the Magpies 35-19 victory.
"For a new-look combo we did well. Obviously we've still got work to do on our shape but that's a good starting point and I'm pretty happy," Kaifa added.
Kaifa was the only member of the trio who was a regular starter during the Magpies Mitre 10 Cup campaign last year.
New Zealand under-20s rep Devan Flanders had just two starting XV appearances last year and flanker Ricky Hayes sole first class appearance for the Bay was as a substitute in 2017. Hayes was the only injury concern after leaving the field with a swollen ankle.
Hawke's Bay led 14-7 at halftime and 35-7 with four minutes remaining.
Fullback Caleb Makene, first five-eighth Lincoln McClutchie, substitute hooker Jacob Devery, substitute loosie Iakopo Mapu and outside back Ollise Sapsford scored tries with all five converted by McClutchie.
"While we left a couple of tries out there through fundamental errors or not nailing the last pass it's early days and both Josh [assistant coach Syms] and I are happy with the combinations and systems being developed," Magpies head coach Mark Ozich said.
"When you consider the hidings we have got up here in previous seasons this is hell of a good place to launch from."
Ozich was impressed with the foundation provided by new Maori All Blacks prop Pouri Rakete-Stones, former Wellington Lions prop Joel Hintz and New Zealand under-20s captain and hooker Kianu Kereru-Symes at scrum time.
"Locks Geoff Cridge and Elijah Martin got through a mountain of work while the loosies shine with their enthusiasm at the breakdown. They were hungry and worked well together. The whole pack went well," Ozich said.
Makene's organisation, communication and energy was top shelf.
"Our set piece play, lineout and scrummaging was okay, our tackling and breakdown work was OK and offensively we were okay. From Monday we will be working to get our individual skills better," Ozich added.
The Magpies next pre-season game will be against Auckland in Cambridge next Friday.
Two former Magpies, outside back Ryan Tongia and prop Jody Allen, are in the Hawke's Bay Saracens team who take on the Horowhenua Heartland Championship side in Levin from 2pm today.
This is the first of four pre-season games for the Saracens team before they begin their Hurricanes Development competition with a match against Wellington Development on August 31.
The Saracens will host the King Country Heartland Championship side in Napier on August 3 and the Whanganui Heartland side on August 10 before playing the Poverty Bay Heartland side in Gisborne on August 17.
■ Saracens team: Johnny Ika, Trent Hape, Travis Janssen, Kalin Paewai, Ryan Tongia, Kodie Drury-Hawkins, Humphrey Sheild, Phil McRoberts, Cristobal Niedmann, Tomo Fogarty, Lucas Albornoz, Donovan Mataira, Paula Latu, Matt Morrison, Jasper Wylie.
Substitutes, forwards: Frank Tupuola, Jody Allen, Tipene Lord, Noel Sanft, Mikaele Tapili, Eru Wano, Jason Cutbush, Albert Hemopo. Backs: Simon Quickfall, Marty Watson, Lester Maulolo, Pedro Benzanilla-Corte.