There was no dream return to Canterbury colours for New Zealand ace Dan Carter as he was upstaged by North Harbour outside half Michael Harris in a shock 22-19 defeat.
It was the first-time since 2006 that the fit-again Carter had played for Canterbury in the Air New Zealand Cup. Although he scored 14 points, a 78th minute penalty from home hero Harris rocked the reigning champions.
Carter ruptured his Achilles during his sabbatical trip to French side Perpignan last season and is easing his way back into top flight rugby after surgery. Last week he played a game for Southbridge in local club rugby and this was the next step up the playing ladder.
All Blacks backs coach Wayne Smith said in South Africa this week that he hoped Carter would be available for the latter stages of the Tri Nations tournament and if the All Blacks lose again to the Springboks he could be in line for an earlier recall than expected.
"I really enjoyed it out there, tough conditions, but just to be back playing is awesome. You can do all the rehab but there is nothing better than being out there playing again," said Carter.
"I'm not too far away in terms of being able to play at full speed. I am happy enough to be out there and I'm confident. I have no qualms with the Achilles when I'm playing and training.
"The All Blacks selectors are just looking forward to me getting back and playing for Canterbury. I don't want to look too far ahead and will assess things after a few games under my belt for Canterbury and then see what happens from there."