PORT Macquarie Pirates came home strongly in the second half to get their Mid North Coast rugby season off to a great start on Saturday.
The Pirates beat Grafton Redmen 31-12 at Stuart Park in an outcome coach Stewart Robertson described as "excellent".
In the process, the hosts bagged a bonus point for scoring four tries.
Chris Geary scored one, and kicked four goals and a penalty. Raven Nurse barged over and Christo Wilken was on the end of a good move to score out wide.
Matt Mane also found the line.
It wasn't all smooth sailing for the Pirates though, who were against the wind in the first half.
They trailed 12-10 at half time. Pirates couldn't handle the pressure, according to Robinson.
"We coughed the ball up a couple of times," he said.
He told them to score first in the second half, and they did, through Wilken.
Andrew Steele, Geary and Lachlan Bassett were the standouts of the match, Robinson said.
Zone new boys, Wauchope Thunder, had the baptism of fire coach Marc Minor expected, going down 40-3 to Coffs Snappers.
Thunder held its own in the first half, before the Snappers ran away with it in the second as the visitors' fitness waned.
The lack of numbers for Thunder in reserves didn't help.
Flanker Andrew Mackay played two full matches.
Mackay had a great game in first grade after playing out of his skin in reserves.
That's the kind of heart Minor is thrilled with.
There are some positives to take out of the match.
"I thought our forward play was excellent," he said.
Aaron Robinson booted Thunder's only points of the afternoon, a penalty.
Defending premiers, Hastings Valley Vikings, got off to a cracking start, beating Kempsey Cannonballs 48-7.
It could have been a bigger margin. Lyndon Gale booted five from five in the first half, before missing everything in the second.
A couple of tries went begging when the ball was dropped over the line.
Viking Adam McCormack was pleased with the win.
"Our forwards dominated," he said.