Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist are still tinkering, but the bare bones are there for what they can achieve in full flight, after a late burst of tries saw them overwhelm Black Bull Liquor Pirates 57-14 in the Spriggens Park derby today.
Running in nine tries in front of their supporters for Old Timers Day, Marist took advantage of their neighbours still being a shell of season's past, although Pirates were not helped by losing a couple of midfielders to injury before kickoff.
This allowed some nostalgia, as club legend Denning Tyrell came out of retirement to play at halfback and reunite the old firm with No 8 Lasa Ulukuta.
But the player who ran the game was Marist second-five Peni Nabainivalu, who took charge of a young but quick backline and had them running angles and shifting wide at every opportunity.
Nabainvalu would have appeared on the tryscorers list, if he was not repeatedly and selflessly flicking the ball off to team mates after crossing the chalk.
After trailing early 6-0 from two Pirates penalties, Nabainivalu and his young midfielder partner Jamie Lee Robertson stepped up a gear, while fullback Ashton Coates latched onto a number of long passes coming into the line and the wingers Luke Foster, who was tested early, and Caleb Crosse showed their finishing ability.
Up front, representative hooker Jack Yarrall and prop Viki Tofa chased everything and smartly distributed the ball around the fringes.
With McCarthy's Transport Ruapehu looming on the horizon as their next challenger for the Grand Hotel Challenge Shield, Marist will still want to cut down on their error rate, as they bombed three golden chances to get the four-try bonus point before halftime.
They also need to minimise their penalties, as one of their forwards had to join a Pirates forward in the sinbin after retaliating for the tackle that went high, while the third quarter was riddled with errors and infringement until Marist corrected their course to score three tries in the last ten minutes.
"I thought Pirates played quite well, Danny [Tamehana]'s doing a good job with them," said Marist coach Marty Bullock.
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Although the "inaccuracies" in the first half were frustrating, Bullock praised lock Hamish Broadhead and No 8 Brad Graham for outstanding games, while Tofa "had the forward pack going quite well".
Tamehana, knowing his team will be heading to the new Division 2 when the club competitions split into three come June, believes they could have a good crack at that title, if the commitment is there.
"Just a couple of boys pulling out at the last minute [hurt today].
"Just rebuild, that's all we can do.
"I just need to see some numbers come to training."
Initially, Pirates were the ones scoring at a point-a-minute, as Marist spilled the kickoff and then gave away a couple of penalties as Tyrell and winger Alex Samasoni's tested Foster's defence with kicks and probes down the far side, first-five PJ Peika booting them to a 6-0 lead.
With both sides reduced to 14, Marist were now close enough to attack and Tofa popped up a good ball for fellow prop Gordon Karaitiana to charge at the line, with a quick ruck recycle by halfback Ricky Alabaster seeing Foster unmarked to step back inside and score.
Straight away, Marist spread from the kickoff and Nabainivalu ran the perfect angle to pull in the outside Pirates defenders, before feeding Coates in space to send Foster off for his double in a 50m team try.
A couple of quick taps in Pirates 22m had Nabainivalu seizing up the situation, and after flanker Lake Ah Chong made the hitup, the second-five fired a long pass to Crosse to step his man and make it 17-6.
Despite some more great passes and chip kicks from Marist, they could not get another try before the break as Alabaster, Foster and even Nabainivalu made fumbles with the line begging.
Still somehow in the contest, Pirates got another couple of penalty chances after the break and Peika nailed the second attempt to close the gap to 17-9, but Nabainivalu stole back some ruck ball and Marist got the penalty to take a 5m lineout, with Tofa driving to the chalk and Graham backing him up to dive over.
Nabainivalu took over the goal kicking for Coates, and eventually Marist would let several players have a practice at adding the extras.
Ulukuta wasn't laying down as he lined up Tofa for a monster hit, but the plucky prop had the last laugh as he immediately followed up on another hard Graham run by cutting through the defenders and sending reserve Cameron Neilson off to the tryline, Nabainivalu landing the conversion off the upright.
Marist kept the offloads coming as new first-five Haze Reweti dashed away and flicked an awesome reverse pass to Nabainivalu, who could have scored but gave Coates the pleasure, with the young fullback then adding the conversion.
At 38-9, there was no way back for Pirates, who were also struggling to find touch on a number of free kicks, but they eventually got close enough to attack through surges from hooker Manulua Lafi and Ulukuta.
Although a loose pass was nearly hacked away by Marist, winger Joe Leitupo recovered it to work wide to Peika, who forced the ball down through two tackles.
Marist's bench depth now came to the fore as loose forward Taione Ratu came on and immediately began carving Pirates up through the middle, while from a penalty lineout, Marist tried a set move to put Tofa through the hole, with reserve Bronson Tumai holding up his pass to put representative winger Simon Dibben through the gap to score.
Another Ratu bust was followed by a great one handed offload to Nabainivalu, who causally jogged to the line before gifting the ball back to Ratu for the try.
Marist still weren't done as Nabainivalu made a no-look pass to Foster to put him away down the sideline, then got the ball back from the winger to fight his way to the line in traffic before firing a basketball-style pass back inside to Alabaster to score with time up.
Marist 57 (L Foster 2, C Crosse, B Graham, C Neilson, A Coates, S Dibben, T Ratu, R Alabaster tries; P Nabainivalu 2 con, Coates 2 con, Alabaster con, B Tumai con) beat Pirates 14 (P Peika try; Peika 3 pen). HT: 17-6.