Tamatea drew first blood in the clash of the giants in this year's Hawke's Bay rugby league competition with a 44-30 win over fellow previously unbeaten side Maraenui Phoenix on Saturday at Whitmore Park, Napier.
Both sides lifted their games above previous standards and it was only in the dying minutes that reigning champions Tamatea were able to break away in a game where the lead changed seven times - a punishing blitz after trailing 30-26 before scoring three tries and goals in the last five minutes. Tamatea's tries include three to centre Mika Mika, the top tryscorer in the competition.
A feature in the difficult wind was the goalkicking of the respective kickers, Aifili Isosefa landing six for Tamatea, and Johnny Lauano all five for Phoenix.
Bridge Pa, without a win in their previous three games, caused a boilover in the other Premier match at Whitmore Park when they beat home side Tech Seals 28-22.
The Seals, winner of the title in 2007 and 2004, scored four tries to one in the first half-hour and should have rammed home the advantage against first-season Premier-graders Bridge Pa, who put themselves back into the game with two tries in the last 10 minutes of the first half, and another to take the lead early in the second.
Seals regained the lead, but Bridge Pa, with possibly the biggest set of forwards in the competition, lasted best with two tries in the final quarter.
A particularly interesting performance was that of Seals loose forward Hugh Reed, a Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby representative and former Junior Rugby World Cup-winning player who scored one of his side's tries, having scored two in his opening appearance in the league competition a fortnight ago.
Still Seals remain in the hunt for a top-four playoff position.
They had a 24-23 victory over Flaxmere Falcons last week, previously reported as a Falcons win.
The Falcons kept their hopes alive with a 26-20 win over Omahu Huia at Kirkpatrick Park, Hastings, scoring five tries, one of them to Mark Ioane, who also landed three goals.
Although now on the verge of missing out on a place in the playoffs, they continue a rebuilding phase, highlighted on Saturday by the performance of second-row forward Gerry Winiata, picked up from the Reserve team, and the consistent performances of wing Fai Leuluai and loose forward Cruz Nuku.
Outkast Sports joined Tamatea and Phoenix in all-but booking places in the semifinals with a surprisingly big 62-14 win over 2011 Reserve champion club Napier Pirate Panthers at Kirkpatrick Park in Hastings.