Unfinished business continues to drive the St Johns Whanganui Metro side as they sit on top of the Manawatū Colts table after three games of what will be a proper competition in 2021.
The Covid-19-affected 2020 season meant only one round of matches between six teams was possible, followed by semifinals then a final where Metro could not overcome rivals the Feilding Yellows, losing 44-14.
Back to two rounds between seven teams, allowing for full campaign of 12 matches plus playoffs, Metro were gutted to lose 16-15 to the Yellows in the season opener on April 10.
"Three tries to two, but they kicked [the goals]," said coach Mark Cosford.
"I thought we'd finally kicked the monkey off the back.
"With that loss in the final, I think we got a good return bunch who want to go one step further."
Since that time the Yellows had two draws with Old Boys Marist (12-12) and Freyberg Old Boys (15-15), whereas Metro rebounded with impressive wins over Feilding Old Boys-Oroua (27-10) and Dannevirke SC (38-10) last Saturday.
Against Dannevirke at the Kaierau Country Club, winger Joey Devine scored two tries and added three conversions, as he will share the kicking duties with 2019 Heartland Hurricanes player Jack O'Leary.
Tipene Reweti, an outstanding touch and league player, also scored a double.
"There's plenty to improve upon but they're heading in the right direction," said Cosford.
The team will miss foundation halfback Chris Ferguson this season, while winger Matthew Murphy has linked up with Kaierau.
However, promising newcomers include former Cullinane openside flanker Neo Tichbon, and prop Keightley Watson – the judo champion who won International Junior Sportsperson at the 2019 Whanganui Sports Awards.
There has been a reset in the Metro Women's team for their quite short sophomore season.
The MRU is only playing one round of matches plus playoffs for this five-team club grade.
"We have to win our next two games, otherwise we won't make that [semifinal]," said Metro coach Tama Te Patu.
Metro suffered heavy losses in their opening two matches, beaten 83-0 by defending champions Kia Toa RFC, then 65-10 on Saturday by Feilding Old Boys-Oroua.
"New girls all the time – last time we had three girls I've never met before, and had to play them – not an ideal thing.
"We'll hang in there and see how things go. The players we are playing [against] are experienced players."
Of Metro's Manawatū Cyclones squad members from 2020, former Black Fern Sosoli Talawadua is just focusing on helping coach the squad, while Lavenia Nauga-Grey is wearing a moon boot – one of three injuries to senior players.
Post MRU season, Metro will see if they can organise exhibition games with clubs from other regions as they also wrap up.
There will be a double header of Metro vs Massey University RFC games at Cooks Gardens on Saturday, with the Women's game at 12.45pm, followed by the Colts at 2.15pm.