Yellows' Matt Dalley among quartet of Manawatu men taking on Wallabies legends
As Matt Dalley lined up against the Classic Wallabies at the Hong Kong 10s it almost felt like a Bledisloe Cup match.
It is easy to see why considering the Classic Wallabies combined for 138 test matches with former internationals Wendell Sailor, Morgan Turinui, Luke Burgess, Stephen Hoiles and Adam Freier in the side - not to mention 20-match New South Wales State of Origin legend Steve Menzies.
Feilding captain Dalley, 27, was playing for the Irish Vikings last month alongside Feilding Old Boys-Oroua duo Jamie Perigo and Ollie Brosnahan and former Manawatu Turbos hooker Bryn Templeman, who is now based in Australia.
Despite being down on experience to their Australian counter-parts - the Vikings had just one international in 2002 one-test All Black Regan King - the Vikings beat the Classic Wallabies 17-14 in the bowl semifinal.
Both Dalley and Brosnahan picked up tries in the match.
"It was quite an experience playing [the Classic Wallabies] in the semis," he said. "We really got the feeling that we were almost in the Bledisloe with them moaning. The crowd and stuff was quite intense which was cool."
The Irish Vikings ended up losing the bowl final 25-7 to Samurai, a team that was expected to be contending for the overall title rather than bowl honours.
Dalley said he enjoyed his first taste of the annual 10s tournament.
"It was a bit of a cultural shock for us Feilding boys," he said. "It was a good level of rugby and some big name players."
Attending the 10s meant Dalley missed Feilding's round five loss to Kia Toa earlier this month. But he has been back for their last two matches.
It has not been a vintage start to the season for Yellows with one win to show for their five matches.
Dalley said they were not letting their rough start get them down.
"It is just waiting for things to click really," he said. "The positivity among the boys is still there. I think you will see a stronger outfit in the second round."
It is Dalley's third year as captain of Yellows. He has been associated with the club since he left school 10 years ago - that time included a stint away in Dunedin while he was studying.
He has quickly become the Mr Fixit of the Yellows' backline slotting in anywhere from 10-15.
"I just have not played halfback yet and I would like to keep it that way," he said. "I have joked with the boys that I would like to see the six or seven on my back at some stage, but that might be a few years away. I still have enough speed to call myself a back."
In 2015 he made his Heartland Rugby debut for Wairarapa Bush and last year he played for the Manawatu Development XV.
"In club rugby I feel like I am a bit long in the tooth so other challenges are good," he said.
But representative rugby was no longer his top rugby goal.
"My rugby goals are around club rugby and getting Yellows through to the top four and lifting a Hankins Shield. I don't mind giving development another crack but I won't be searching to play any Heartland rugby. It puts a bit too much strain on me with full time work."