Little-used Blues Super 14 squad member George Pisi returned to club duties yesterday to help champions Massey make an impressive start to this season's North Harbour premier club rugby competition.
Playing at centre, Pisi scored two of Massey's five tries in a decisive 31-15 defeat of a Marist team tipped to be among this season's leading contenders.
After losing several players from the sides which won the Harbour title in 2004 and 2005, Massey were expected to be less of a force this year.
But this did not appear the case yesterday, especially in the first half, when Massey jumped away to a 21-0 lead at the break. Also in form for Massey was Pisi's elder brother Tusi at first five-eighths.
Takapuna, Harbour's other top club of recent years, also took a maximum five points yesterday, beating the Walter Little-coached Glenfield side 29-20.
But Takapuna's win was less sure than Massey's and they came under severe pressure in the scrums.
Glenfield looked like causing an upset, after a penalty from halfway and then a try between the posts by first five-eighths Jack McPhee gave them a 20-17 lead heading into the final quarter.
But a couple of errors, one from a scrum where they had been dominant, saw Glenfield concede a couple of soft tries to hard-working Takapuna flanker Jeremy Ball.
Northcote and North Shore gained predictable wins over country clubs Kumeu and Mahurangi respectively. But in neither match was the margin as high as some may have anticipated.
Shore beat Mahurangi 15-7, while Northcote, despite getting a bonus point for scoring four tries, were always stretched to beat Kumeu 31-20.
East Coast Bays was another to start the season on a high with a 31-16 win over Silverdale.
Ponsonby served notice that it won't be giving up the Gallaher Shield easily when they comfortably won 40-19 at Pakuranga's Bell Park in the opening round of Auckland premier one.
And as happened so often last season, first five-eighths Brett Williams was Ponsonby's leading scorer, with three tries and four conversions for 23 points.
Ponsonby led 12-0 at halftime and never looked in danger of losing.
Waitakere City, beaten Gallaher Shield finalists last year, also started 2006 in fine form running in six tries in its 41-6 win at East Tamaki.
Waitakere City raced out to a 29-6 halftime lead, as East Tamaki had no answer to the West Aucklanders' expansive 15-man game.
Grammar Carlton had a narrow 22-17 win over University at Colin Maiden Park, although the scoreboard didn't fully reflect Grammar Carlton's dominance.
Poor finishing cost them several try-scoring opportunities and as Grammar Carlton coach Mark Winder noted afterwards: "Our mistakes kept University in the game."
University held a 10-8 advantage at halftime.
Roskill Districts, which started last season in premier two, upset Otahuhu 33-30 after controlling much of the first half to lead 17-6 at the break.
Te Papapa Onehunga also caused an upset with its 27-22 win over last season's Jubilee Trophy winner Marist. And it did so in front of Marist's home fans at Liston Park.
Te Papapa Onehunga started last season with a rush but faded badly in the second half of the season.
Waitemata and Suburbs gave early reminders that they will be chasing promotion to the premier one competition with easy wins - Suburbs 39-7 over Waiheke and Waitemata 30-5 over Teachers Eastern in the first round of premier two.
-HERALD ON SUNDAY