Hora Hora revealed their championship aspirations earlier than usual this season by thumping champions Mid Northern 46-17 at Hora Hora Park.
Hora Hora have often been often been slow starters in the Southern Districts premier grade club rugby competition but there was nothing tardy about their performance on Saturday.
The ferocity of their assault took Mid Northern by surprise and they had scored two of their six tries within 15 minutes of kick-off.
The Hora Hora forwards led the way, dominating the forward exchanges with some aggressive defence that saw them steal plenty of Mid Northern ball and they were able to hang on to it well enough to dominate possession in the game.
The Whangarei club also got the best out of their backs and with the introduction of former North Harbour fullback Jack McPhee, testing himself against Mid Northern stalwart David Holwell at first five eighth.
McPhee, a handy signing for the club under the NRU's player placement programme, made an instant impression at first five with his clever distribution and strong darts at the line causing problems for Mid Northern.
His defence was rugged, as is to be expected from a fullback at the ITM Cup level, and his goal kicking was also handy to the Hora Hora effort, slotting five out of eight attempts.
Hora Hora skipper said McPhee's debut was "awesome", and combined with new coach Bruce Hodder's contribution to the team, had helped them pull off a moral boosting win.
"The boys will have their tails up after this result and we'll be working hard to continue our momentum in the competition next week," he said.
"We haven't beaten Mid Northern for a while now so the boys were a bit nervous before the game but ... we've been working hard on our defence we identified that as a big problem last year but it went really well today, we were aggressive when we needed to be and it was a big positive for us."
The opening try in the sixth minute was a Hora Hora special, with their rolling maul taking the ball to the line before Mark Bennett scored. McPhee was the architect of the second, switching play to fire a perfect cut out ball to find promising youngster Jono Graham unmarked on the left wing.
Holwell countered by slotting his third penalty attempt but Hora Hora hooker Alan Nesbit was over for a 19-3 lead after Hora Hora had strung several phases together and patiently stretched the defence out of shape.
A shellshocked Mid Northern finished the spell well, getting themselves back into the game with a good attacking scrum giving Brad Miller the opportunity to bust a tackle and score under the posts , making it 19-10 at the break.
The pace was frantic after the break with both sides wanting to score first. An error from a scrum saw Mid Northern in trouble in their own 22 and a few phases later McPhee took advantage of an overlap once again, drawing Holwell in the tackle to put Bennett in for his second try in the 55th minute.
A few minutes later Mid Northern struck back with Chris Apoua crashing over to make it 26-17 but the last quarter belonged to the home side.
They stepped up their efforts again, and Dunn grabbed a late double before Paris Openshaw added insult to injury with a try before the final whistle.
It was a great team effort by Hora Hora and it shows just how well they have prepared for this season
Stand-in skipper Brad Taylor refused to blame absences in their side for the loss.
"Hora Hora fronted up today and took it to us, they had a good game plan and stuck to it and it showed on the scoreboard in the end," he said.
There were three absences from the Mid Northern pack that started last week's game against the Western Sharks with Mark McGluggage, Paul Scannel and Buster Tahere all missing.