It was a tough re-introduction to playing Premier level in Hockey Manawatu for the Whanganui Men after a 5-3 loss to High School Hockey Club A at McDonald's Stadium on Saturday.
Whanganui had come into the new and imaginatively named Premier Group B division as the top qualifier after the two rounds of Premier Reserve Men's grade with an imposing ten straight victories, scoring 46 goals while conceeding only nine.
However, HSHC A were expected to be their toughest competition this season after being unlucky to be relegated from Premier alongside the winless Palmerston North Boys High.
The visitors finished two rounds in the top tier with an identical 4-2-4 record to the Massey Premiers, but were eliminated due to a -3 goal differential.
In his match report, Whanganui's Craig Ritani said the pace of the game was a big step up, but the home team played with width and speed in the first half to take the lead twice, first through Kaelin Mooney and then Tony Gilbertson.
However, the visitors got reply goals on each occasion to deadlock the score 2-all at halftime.
"In the second half of the third quarter, the Wanganui team lost its shape and composure and let in two goals," said Ritani.
In a tight match, a spotlight will always be on the 50-50 calls in the officiating, and HSHC A kept their big game composure to take advantage.
Ritani said Whanganui showed great character to claw a goal back, with Travis Bayler scoring after Gilbertson was instrumental in the buildup, for 4-3.
The home side kept pushing forward for the equaliser, however HSHC absorbed the pressure and knocked another goal in just before fulltime for a deceptive scoreline.
"There was a lot to learn for both young and old in the team, and apart from a ten minute defensive lapse in the third quarter, the team matched HSHC across the park," said Ritani.
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"Work will have to be done on defence to ensure Whanganui don't leak easy goals in the games to come."
The Whanganui men, like the women's team did on the weekend, will now take a break this coming Saturday, before meeting PNBHS in a game that has been moved to an early Thursday evening on July 18 in Gonville.