PUT the result to one side and Sunday evening at Rugby Park was a special one for James Wilson.
After six years of plying his trade overseas, Wilson returned to his roots when he lined up for the Southland Stags in their round one Mitre 10 Cup 31-10 loss to Hawke’s Bay on Sunday.
It was the 35-year-old’s first game at Southland rugby headquarters since 2011 and he was pleased to be back.
“It was great to be back out playing in front of friends and family and playing for the old club.
“I love pulling on this jersey, I have a lot of pride doing it,” Wilson said about adding to the 66 Southland caps he had already racked up from 2003 to 2011.
“The [Rugby Park] pitch is in great nick for this season. It was a great day for running rugby; coming back and playing running rugby at home is what I wanted to do.
“We had the opportunity to do that, but unfortunately we couldn’t really finish it.”
Wilson showed plenty of endeavour to try and spark the inexperienced team into action, but the reality is the Stags were not good enough.
The mountain they have in front of them this season is a steep one to climb.
The showdown with Tasman on Sunday will test the Stags’ character, given Tasman is shaping as the benchmark in the 2018 Mitre 10 Cup competition.
Tasman beat Canterbury 24-17 in round one.
“They are on fire, they did some really good things in the weekend. It is going to be a tough game, we are going to have to be up for it.
“Fortunately for us we’ve got seven days [to prepare for] a tough outfit in Tasman,” Wilson said.
No doubt a focus this week would centre on combating the lineout drive.
Hawke’s Bay scored all four tries on Sunday from lineout drives.
The Stags co-captain acknowledged it needed to be sorted, but first and foremost it started with discipline, he said.
“By giving away penalties they were able to plug the corner and obviously they just mauled it over after that.
“How many tries? Four? [conceded]. That’s just not good enough in this competition,” Wilson said.
“In front of our home crowd we wanted to start the season off really well and put in a good performance. I thought at times we did that… but overall for 80 minutes we didn’t and obviously, the score shows.”
Southland will play Tasman at Landsdowne Park in Blenheim on Sunday with kick-off at 2.05pm.