Big wing Frank Halai kept his game ticking over nicely with a double strike as Counties Manukau crushed North Harbour 44-14 in their NPC rugby clash at North Harbour Stadium in Albany.
Halai showed why he's on call for the All Blacks with a powerful display for his province, scoring tries either side of halftime as Counties bounced back from their opening round loss to Wellington.
Coach Tana Umaga won't let his players get too carried away. It was, after all a thrashing of last year's wooden spooners.
But Counties Manukau are a confidence side and they'll take plenty of positives out of this bonus point victory as they go about retaining their status in the top tier.
They spread the ball as the opportunities arose but they also showed some good defence when required and their work at the breakdown was far too strong for Harbour.
The arrival of unwanted All Blacks hooker Hika Elliott gave Counties plenty of presence and the steady supply of ball allowed star backs like Halai and Sherwin Stowers to shine.
Tries to Maama Vaipulu and Adam Cathcart in the first 12 minutes set the tone for the match.
Counties let Baden Kerr keep the scoreboard ticking over during the middle stages of the first half before Halai, hovering in the All Blacks wider training group for the Rugby Championship showed his class with a strong finish for a try.
And while replacement hooker Adrian Smith got Harbour some reward soon after, it was Halai who got the momentum going for Counties again just after halftime with a punishing run.
Halai showed up in defence too, a massive spot tackle midway through the second spell halting a threatening Harbour attack.
The final quarter was an even tussle before Counties' other big Ahsee Tuala struck right on fulltime.
Harbour remain without a win after two rounds and unless they can find better ways to use their ample possession they will continue to struggle.
Counties Manukau 44 (Maama Vaipulu, Adam Cathcart, Frank Halai 2, Ahsee Tuala tries; B Kerr 4 con, 3 pen; Ki Anufe con) North Harbour 14 (Adrian Smith try; Jon Elrick 3 pen)
- FFX Aus