It’s unlikely Waikato will be able to call upon the services of Damian McKenzie for the remainder of the Mitre 10 Cup campaign, but the All Blacks star has certainly made an impact in the two matches he’s played for the Mooloos.

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One of many All Blacks released to play in the opening fortnight of New Zealand’s premier provincial competition, McKenzie returned to Waikato for the first time since 2016 in scintillating fashion in their season-opener against Wellington last weekend.

Scoring a whopping 33 points against a Lions side stacked with All Blacks and Super Rugby talent, the 25-year-old capped off his showing with a blistering 85 metre intercept try to help his side to a 53-28 victory.

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The Aussie Rugby Show | Episode 18

McKenzie continued that vein of form into Waikato’s second match of the season this weekend when they hosted North Harbour, scoring another impressive try, this time using his support play to help the men in red, black and yellow claim a 41-19 win.

Following up a line break by young midfielder Quinn Tupaea, the 23-test fullback was on the receiving end of a draw-and-pass before putting on the afterburners to outpace three North Harbour defenders and cruise in under the posts.

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That wasn’t McKenzie’s only significant involvement in the game, with the playmaker showing some deft footwork to play a key role in setting up a try for impressive young halfback Xavier Roe, who crossed for his second score of the game.

It will be players like Roe that Waikato will lean on heavily once McKenzie leaves the squad to link up with the All Blacks in Whakatane on Monday.

The 21-year-old has been a standout for the Mooloos thus far this season, having scored last week against Wellington to help cement his place as Waikato’s top No. 9 in a position many pundits viewed as an area of weakness before the season kicked off.

Likewise, former Chiefs and Sunwolves flanker Mitch Jacobson has similarly caught the eye since returning to provincial action, and the efforts of Waikato’s less-heralded players will put the side in good stead upon McKenzie’s departure.

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The Hamiltonians’ win over North Harbour sees them rocket up to second place on the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership standings with two wins from as many matches, and will look to extend their winning run against fellow table-toppers Tasman in Nelson next week.

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