Early thrashings in the Heartland Championship
King Country and Poverty Bay have shown plenty of intent in the opening round of the Heartland Championship season, dispatching visitors to their respective home turfs.
Pre-season form side Wairarapa Bush were sent packing from King Country's home ground in Taupo, on the back of a 32-13 loss.
Poverty Bay dished out a thrashing of their own in Gisborne, sending East Coast back up the coast after a 52-12 hiding.
Both King Country and Poverty Bay recruited well in the off season, bringing in high calibre talent to propel them up the Heartland Championship after dismal 2013 seasons.
After a ninth-placed finish last year, King Country brought in former Waikato second-five Joe Perawiti to do damage in the midfield.
Paired with superb pivot Whakataki Cunningham, the duo took charge of the match in Taupo and cut the visitors to shreds.
Anthony Wise and Chanse Perham had King Country's two tries, while Cunningham slotted both conversions and a further six penalties.
It wasn't a complete performance from the team, but coach Kurt McQuilkin said he was pleased with the pressure put on the visitors, leading to all those penalty attempts.
Perawiti in particular was the star, proving hard to stop for Wairarapa's defence.
His experience with Waikato's NPC team in 2012 and '13 showed, and rubbed off on those around him.
Over in Gisborne, former All Black Rico Gear has helped stamp his mark on an exciting side as assistant coach.
Former Highlanders, Crusaders and New Zealand Maori loose forward Jake Paringatai has come into the team to bolster the ranks, and that experience rubbed off on his teammates.
Lock Murray Hewson had a double for Poverty Bay, while Moss Doran, Sam Parkes, Brynn Uriarau, Paringatai and Donny Mill also crossed the white line.
Doran slotted four conversions and three penalties to take his personal tally to 22 points.
Manager George Ormond said the influence of Gear and head coach Mutu Ngarimu, in his second year with the team, has transformed the side.
''We had a tough preseason. We lost 71-zip against Wairarapa Bush, and then Hawkes Bay development put 50 past us,'' he said.
''We came out today on the back of that and really delivered. We started at 50/1 to win the title. That dropped to 15/1 when they saw our players. I think it might drop some more now.''
Down in Levin, Horowhenua Kapiti fought back from a 14-6 halftime deficit to draw 19-19 with Thames Valley.
Watisoni Lotawa, Josh Turner and Mick Judd scored tries for the visitors, but Horowhenua Kapiti fought back with tries to captain Antony Fox and Ha'amea Ahio.
Hamish Buick slotted three penalties for the hosts, but couldn't kick a conversion with two minutes remaining to hand his side victory.
Swampfoxes flanker Pepa Koloamatangi was sent off late after receiving his second yellow card of the match.
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