Former New Zealand sevens star Orene Ai'i made an understated entry into Northland rugby with 40 minutes for his new club Kamo as they edged out Old Boys 22-20.
The 32-year-old appeared short of full fitness but still gave the crowd glimpses of the old magic, particularly when he mesmerised the defence with a dummy and a stutter step to finesse a gap.
The former Auckland playmaker will play for Northland this season after several years overseas. After coming on at fullback at halftime, his experience settled the Kamo backs as they sought to contain the threat of Mateo Malupo, Saxon Samuels and Troy Gilbert.
"He manoeuvred the ball around the park and brought all of his experience to bear on the game and that's one of the things that helped get us home," assistant coach Barry Herman said.
Kamo's forwards were pushed hard by a good Old Boys pack but determination plus the return of Northland lock Bryce Williams, another handy second-half replacement, helped Kamo win their fifth successive match.
It was an ill-tempered, hard-to-control match, with three red cards handed out and at least double that number of yellow cards shown.
Kamo were without Cameron Goodhue at the back of the scrum after he was called in to make his Super 15 debut for the Blues against the Crusaders.
The big result of the weekend was a 61-3 thumping of competition leaders Mid Western by Mid Northern.
After a surprise loss to Old Boys last week, Mid Northern weren't going to be easy to beat but the ferocious way they tackled and cleaned out the rucks surprised their rivals and they had no answer.
Former head coach Craig Edwards, returning to to assist Hamish McCarroll and replace Australia-bound Rick Caulfield, gleefully watched his team play an almost faultless game.
"Our ball runners held on to the ball, we showed great discipline ... it was a great team effort," he said.
Mid Western coach Simon Cauty said the loss was something of a wake-up call and hoped it was a one-off: "We got outplayed, outpassioned and out-everythinged up there but we've got to put this result behind us now, we're still in second place in the competition and there's plenty to play for.
Marist downed Hikurangi 30-15 at Kensington Park despite trailing 6-8 at halftime.
The home side showed depth from the bench to outplay Hikurangi in the second spell.
Otamatea pushed Hora Hora but came up a few points short of their first win of the season, losing 30-34 at Kaiwaka.
Wellsford squeaked home 13-11 against the Western Sharks at Centennial Park to move into the lead of the Southern Districts competition.