Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau have got their feet underneath them for the Tasman Tanning Premier season after a much-needed 60-14 hammering of a 16-man Settlers Honey Ngamatapouri at the Country Club on Saturday.
Eager to play up tempo style throughout, a little risky after two early tries when they stopped worrying about clearing the dangerzone, Kaierau settled into a comfortable groove with their line speed and passing, looking to put players in space.
Centre Seko (John) Kilisi was in excellent touch with some strong runs, while first-five Shandon Scott had a hand in most key plays including scoring an excellent individual try from deep in his own half.
In the absence of Josh Lane, double tryscoring lock Matt Ashworth and No8 Ben Aiken spoiled plenty of Ngamatapouri lineouts, a real issue currently for the undermanned Waitotara squad, while Kaierau captain Fiatau Fa'alili had a busy day at openside flanker.
Ngamatapouri were without injured skipper Bryn Hudson, which meant tryscorer and acting captain Samu Kubunavanua had to cover flanker, with the whole visitor lineup being reworked.
Second-five and tryscorer Jim Seruwalu remained dangerous in short bursts, but as been seen previously, the defensive gaps opened up again late in the match when Ngamatapouri were running on vapours.
There was one ugly incident in the 55th minute which could see a disciplinary followup after Kaierau believed Ngamatapouri outside back Isi Baleitavuki had allegedly stomped Karl Pascoe, with the winger being helped off with a bloodied head.
In a match with volunteer touch judges, referee Mark Wilson brought the captains together for discussion, but angry Kaierau flanker Alex Mulipola got into it with Kubunavanua, with both teams struggling to separate them.
Needing to restore order, Wilson sinbinned Kubunavanua and sent Mulipola off for grabbing at the throat.
Ngamatapouri manager Gerald Pearce soon looked to substitute Baleitavuki out of the match, but he had to return in short order when the reserve player was left dazed from a head knock.
After a tough opening three weeks of the competition, Kaierau coach Denis Edwards had what he needed – a comfortable bonus point win to boost the confidence, while still taking a laundry list of work-on's back to training.
"We got away from our gameplan, especially under pressure, but we'll get back to that if it's things like positional play.
"Everyone stood up today that needed to. We moved the ball well."
Edwards was happy with the intent to put players into gaps rather than always attempting to bust through, while he was pleased with his very young front row of Sam Beard, Kohlt Coveny, and Ihaka Te Paki.
Ngamatapouri coach Richard Carston said the team will get Hudson and outside back Josia Dawai next weekend after recovering from injury.
"You only got 15 players, it can't be helped. You run out of steam.
"Not much we can do, we just keep going.
"There's a few still on the hook that haven't arrived."
Kickoff off in steady rain which would dissipate in the second half, Kaierau twice nearly scored in the far right corner but lost possession or were pushed out.
With Scott calling for patience, Kaierau got their bearings as they spread from each sideline and Mulipola linked with Fa'alili to put winger Penani Vui over in the corner.
Scott landed the difficult kick and then scored a stunning try when he dummied into a gap and dashed away, putting up a chip kick then racing Ngamatapouri halfback Stu Wright for the ball, before controlling it off his knee to regather to score, after Wilson took a long look.
Kaierau then made mistakes in their own half and didn't clear their territory well, and after a handful of penalties, Kubunavanua took a quick tap and stretched through two tacklers to plant the ball on the line.
Kaierau replied quickly as the ball popped out of a ruck and veteran second-five Ace Malo sent it wide to Kilisi, before play swung back the other way and Malo worked a run-around with fullback Carliwyne Riddles and backed him up to score.
Another tap quick saw Kaierau continue to let the ball do the work as Mulipola fed Coveny and then Vui stepped back inside to crash over in the tackle for his double.
Ngamatapouri began to try risky passes and chip kicks in their own half on each side the break, Kaierau making it 29-7 before the turnaround after a couple of Kilisi surges, with Aiken hanging onto a loose pass to keep the movement going so Riddles could score in the corner.
It took a while for Kaierau to settle after halftime, just missing a try the corner, and Ngamatapouri gave themselves a faint hope as Seruwalu ran low, shaping to offload, and then cut through the Kaierau halves, before finding winger Abo Taroga backing up, who beat a defender and then set up Seruwalu to go under the posts.
Both teams were then reduced to 14 men, Kaierau for the duration, but Malo as always led by example as he collected the ball on Ngamatapouri's 22m, stepped two tacklers to back inside and dash into the gap and race over for another fine individual try.
Reserve hooker Joe Edwards came on and tried the long pass from a Kaierau turnover, with Riddles ending up with it to pop the ball to Ashworth who went over by the posts.
Kaierau kept it coming, spreading to each sideline, and eventually Kilisi batted a long pass over his head for Riddles to claim and run to the left far corner for his hat trick.
Malo tapped another penalty and probed forward, before Ashworth surged into another big gap and ran back to the posts.
The home side brought up the 60 points when halfback Viliamu Alauni took a Scott pass off the tryline ruck and pumped his legs through two defenders to score.
Kaierau 60 (C Riddles 3, P Vui 2, M Ashworth 2, S Scott, A Malo, V Alauni tries; S Scott 5 con) bt Ngamatapouri 14 (S Kubunavanua, J Seruwalu tries; T Kemp 2 con). HT: 29-7.