Patrick Tuipulotu's rugby year began in a deep hole and only in probably his last game has the burly All Blacks lock climbed out of it.
Tuipolutu delivered a powerhouse performance in the 28-23 defeat of a French selection in Lyon, scoring a bulldozing try early in the second spell to give the tourists a lead they weren't to relinquish.
The 24-year-old also delivered a granite-like tackle on Marco Tauleigne in the first half which forced the No.8 from the game with an apparent neck injury.
It was the sort of performance the All Blacks selectors have wanted to see from Tuipulotu - but haven't - for some time.
He has made just eight Test appearances in the last two years, mostly off the bench, having seemingly slipped to fifth in the New Zealand lock pecking order.
Part of a rookie pack on Tuesday, it was now or never for the quietly-spoken powerhouse.
"There were a lot of young guys and a lot of new people in. It was probably more so on me to lead with some physicality," he said.
Tuipulotu's year began with two months of dread and uncertainty after he was provisionally suspended by World Rugby following a positive test to a a banned substance.
He was exonerated in February when his B-sample tested negative but the big forward never hit his straps for the Blues and hasn't produced a dominant display for New Zealand until confronted by the bruising French selection pack.
He brushed aside any praise, diverting it to his youthful team-mates, nine of whom are uncapped.
"It'll mean a lot for the young guys to come in and do what they did tonight," he said.
"A lot of them will learn from it. They got a taste of almost-Test footy - it's there or thereabouts so they'll take a lot from it."