The Crusaders put in a dominant display in their Super Rugby opener, defeating the Waratahs 43-25 in Nelson on Saturday.
The defending champions ran in six tries at Trafalgar Park, sending an ominous warning to the competition as they chase a fourth consecutive title.
Several Mako were named in the starting line-up and the local lads put on a clinic in front of friends and family.
With Richie Mo’unga receiving treatment, David Havili slotted the first points of the Crusaders’ campaign.
The Waratahs returned in kind before another Mako man, Will Jordan, found his way over the chalk on the back of a brilliant offload from skipper Scott Barrett for the first try of the game.
The second was sparked through slick interplay between former Nelson College players Leicester Faingaanuku and Mitch Drummond who set Braydon Ennor sailing away under the sticks.
The Mako show continued as Faingaanuku latched onto a high ball and powered his way through several defenders to find the line from 40 metres out on his home ground, as the defending champions raced to a 24-6 advantage.
It was a slow start to the second for both sides before debutant Mark Nawaqanitawase pulled one back for the Waratahs.
The NSW flyer then went back to back to bring his side right back in the contes with twenty minutes remaining.
However, just as they looked to be making a comeback, the Waratahs were stung with a bonus point try as Ennor nabbed his second.
The nail was well and truly put in the coffin minutes later as Jordan burst through the line and scooted away to seal an opening round win for the Cantabrians.
Faingaanuku says he and his fellow Nelson teammates had been champing at the bit for the side’s first visit to the city since 2015.
“I think it made the other boys step up to put on a show for the boys that were bred here like myself, so I’m stoked to get the win for the crowd.”
The former New Zealand schoolboy says while there will be plenty of lessons from tonight’s win, they will enjoy the moment. He was quick to deflect credit for his superb solo try.
“I like to get my hands on the ball and I wasn’t getting a lot in the first half so I whispered to Richie ‘feed me man I’m hungry,’ so he gave me the cue to chase after the high ball and all I had to do was catch and pin the ears back so full credit to the boys it was a team effort.”
The 20-year-old powerhouse says he is constantly learning from the likes of All Black wings George Bridge and Sevu Reece in the Crusaders environment.
“I am finding out how and why this franchise is the best in the world and enjoying every moment.”
The bonus point win was the perfect start to the defending champion’s season who are looking to break its own record of three titles in a row.
“It won’t come easy, it will take effort, we will take it week by week and build from there, that is the end goal, but it will take a lot of mahi.”
Crusaders 43 (Ennor 2, Jordan 2, Faingaanuku, Romano tries, Havili 4 cons, 1 pen) Waratahs 18 (Nawaqanitawase 2 tries, Harrison 2 pens)