Otago cruised to a comfortable 46-29 victory over North Harbour in their opening National Provincial Championship (NPC) match at Carisbrook in Dunedin on Thursday.
Veteran flyhalf Tony Brown controlled proceedings with an impressive display as Otago outscored their visitors by six tries to four, kicking off their campaign in dominant form.
The hosts held the ascendency at scrum-time and they made that advantage count thanks to some astute tactical kicking from Brown putting the pressure on the opposition.
Their dominance was reflected in the half-time score of 24-5 as the Otago pack including All Blacks Tom Donelly and Kees Meeuws gave Brown a handy platform.
After an early Glenn Dickson penalty, wing Joe Hill got the first try for Otago after picking up a loose pass and racing in from the halfway line.
Otago raced to a 24-0 lead in the opening half-hour after Hill's effort was followed up by a quick brace from skipper Eben Joubert. The impressive flank received a pass close to the line inside centre Sam Giddens before he capped a slick backline move involving Brown, Giddens and Ben Atiga to leave North Harbour wondering what had hit them.
The visitors enjoyed a healthy amount of possession, but could not make it count as they battled to pierce the resolute Otago defence.
Lock James King got North Harbour on the board before the interval and Ben Botica cut the deficit to 17 with a penalty before a deft Brown grubber kick handed Atiga the simple task of flopping on the ball over the line to chalk up his first try for his new province.
A drop goal from Brown stretched the lead out to 26 points before North Harbour struck twice in quick succession.
Fullback Codey Rei crossed on debut and then former All Black Rudi Wulf fended off Atiga and showed he has not lost any pace from his sojourn in France to race in and give his side a sniff.
However, any hopes they had of a comeback were squashed after another handling error deep in their own half led to replacement loose forward TJ Ioane burrowing over.
The busy Matt Luamanu drove over with a minute left to secure North Harbour a valuable bonus point try, but Otago, fittingly, had the final say with lock Rob Verbakel grabbing a try after the final hooter had sounded to mark his debut.
Tries: Hill, Joubert, 2, Atiga, Ioane, Verbakel
Con: Dickson 5
For North Harbour:
Tries: King, Rei, Wulf, Luamanu
Con: Botica 3
Otago: 15 Glenn Dickson, 14 Joe Hill, 13 Ben Atiga, 12 Sam Giddens, 11 Buxton Popoali'i, 10 Tony Brown, 9 Sean Romans, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Eben Joubert (captain), 6 Regan Tamihere, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Daniel Ramsay, 3 Kees Meeuws, 2 Jason MacDonald, 1 Halani Aulika.
Reserves: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 James McGougan, 18 Rob Verbakel, 19 TJ Ioane, 20 Johnny Legg, 21 Jayden Spence, 22 Matt Faddes, 23 Scott Manson.
North Harbour: 15 Codey Rei, 14 David Raikuna, 13 Rudi Wulf, 12 Brendon Watt, 11 Nafi Tuitavake, 10 Ben Botica, 9 Chris Smylie (captain), 8 Matt Luamanu, 7 Brent Wilson, 6 Solomon King, 5 James King, 4 Chris Smith, 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 James Parsons, 1 Mike Reid.
Reserves: 16 Mike Mayhew, 17 Taione Vea, 18 James Afoa, 19 Irwin Finau, 20 Scott Uren, 21 Luke Hamilton, 22 Willie Walker, 23 Ken Pisi.
Referee: Glen Jackson
Gilbert has released a new line of rugby cleats. The Gilbert Virtuo 8S is part of the exciting new product. Check it out.
The entire All Blacks apparel line has been updated for 2013/14. Check out the New Zealand All Blacks polo.
The Nike Tiempo is a solid rugby cleat and one of few styles still made from full-grain natural leather.
The Gilbert Blitz 8S rugby cleat is a great cleat at a great price of $69.99. Get a new pair of cleats today.
A cool looking all black rugby cleat with the high performance adidas is known for. Get in the Gear!
Wear the crest of the British and Irish Lions on your t-shirt. A great look for the summer.
The All Blacks Performance t-shirt is black with hints of blue from the training jersey. Very Cool.
The New Zealand All Blacks training jersey for 2013/14. Get in the Gear!
The USA Rugby Pro Alternate rugby jersey is perfect for any fan of the Eagles. Get yours to wear during the summer Test matches.
The NEW All Blacks 2013/14 jersey has arrived at World Rugby Shop. Dare to wear the colors of the All Blacks.