All Blacks back-row Liam Messam returned to action for Waikato in a 28-21 win over Manuwatu in the ITM Cup on Saturday.
Messam started at number eight and came through a full 80 minutes as his side picked up a win on the road in Palmerston North.
"It was good to win and good to get 80 minutes under my belt. And it was good to get out there and put the colours on again," Messam told the Manawatu Standard.
"You can't underestimate how good this competition is, and refreshing getting out there with 18 and 19-year-olds."
The visitors got off to a fast start through Jamie Stevenson's try in the first minute which went unconverted by promising fly-half Damien McKenzie.
The Chiefs number ten bounced back with two penalties in seven minutes before Manuwatu's fortunes took a turn for the worse with a yellow card for full-back Hamiora Thomas.
Waikato capitalised with a try from Lone Uhila to cap off a fast start, McKenzie converting to make it 18-0 after 20 minutes.
They themselves went down to 14 men with a yellow card for Jordan Payne as Manuwatu finally hit back just after half-time with a try for Jason Emery, converted by Otere Black.
Manuwatu's fightback continued when replacement prop Fraser Armstrong went over with Black adding the extra two and giving the hosts a fighting chance at 18-14.
A penalty from McKenzie not long after steadied the ship for Waikato before his try in the 68th minute gave Waikato a comfortable cushion once more at 28-14.
However Manuwatu thundered back in the closing stages, scoring through Nathan Tudreu and then hammering away at the Waikato line in the closing stages, but they were unable to come up with a converted try to draw the game.
Tries: Emery, Armstrong, Tudreu
Cons: Black 3
Yellow Card: Thomas
Tries: Stevenson, Uhila, McKenzie
Cons: McKenzie 2
Pens: McKenzie 2
Yellow Cards: Payne, Kerr-Barlow
Manawatu: 15 Hamiora Thomas, 14 Semisi Masirewa, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Hamish Northcott, 11 Nathan Tudreu, 10 Otere Black, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Antonio Kirikiri, 7 Callum Gibbins (c), 6 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 5 Tom Parsons, 4 Fraser Stone, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Rob Foreman, 1 Adrian Barone.
Replacements: 16 Nick Grogan, 17 Fraser Armstrong, 18 Tim Cadwallader, 19 Velantino Mapapalangi, 20 Mark Atkins, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Sam Malcom, 23 Jaxon Tagavaitau
Waikato: 15 Shaun Stevenson, 14 Declan O'Donnell, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Jordan Payne, 11 Joe Webber, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Murray Iti, 6 Whetu Douglas, 5 Jacob Skeen, 4 James Tucker, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Michael Mayhew, 1 Lone Uhila.
Replacements: 16 Epalahame Faiva, 17 Joe Walsh, 18 Tau Koloamatangi, 19 Josh Tyrell, 20 Zane Kapeli, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Johnathan Malo.
Referee: Chris Pollock