Top all-round performance from South Canty
South Canterbury made the perfect start to their Heartland Championship campaign with a deserved 31-18 win over Wanganui in Timaru.
South Canterbury leapt out to a 24-0 lead by half time and notched up the four try bonus point midway through the second half before Wanganui scored two late tries to close the margin.
It was the biggest win South Canterbury have ever had over the three times Meads Cup winners since 1960 and their first win since 2006.
It also gave new captain Nick Strachan a winning start in the Heartland Championship.
Not even some vocal support from Whanganui's former mayor and now Timaru resident Michael Laws could get the visitors home.
Elsewhere Meads Cup favourites Mid Canterbury beat West Coast 52-27 after being down 27-13 at halftime.
Buller upset North Otago 17-9 in Westport, recording their first win over them in the Heartland and also keeping them tryless for the first time.
The North Island teams threw up some interesting results.
Poverty Bay thrashed East Coast 52-12, King Country upset Wairarapa Bush 32-13 while Horowhenua Kapiti lost to Thames Valley 14-6.
South Canterbury looked good from the start, dominating territory and possession.
An early penalty to centre Paula Fifita was followed by an excellent try to fullback Jared Trevathan after a strong 40m burst from No 8 Josateki Veikune.
Fifita landed the conversion to have his side up 10-0.
Fifita was in the action again 10 minutes later when he ran strongly on the angle and halfback Sekope Maea's sleight of hand slipped him the ball to run away and score from 40m out, and he duly landed the conversion.
Wanganui then found themselves a man down when lock Sam Madams pulled down the maul.
A confident South Canterbury turned down the kick and opted for a scrum.
Shortly afterwards left wing Erenimo Tau scored after a neat double round by first five Kurt Rooney with clubmate Miles Medlicott creating space out wide and again Fifita added the extras to be up 24-0 at the break.
Wanganui were a much better side after the break but South Canterbury stuck to their task.
The visitors landed a penalty to Josh Hamilton and hooker Cole Baldwin scored a try.
Midway through the half Rooney was again in the action when he ran strongly through a gap and with forward support went over for the bonus point try.
Fifita's conversion had South Canterbury up 31-8 and while they conceded two late tries were never in danger.
For South Canterbury Rooney had his best in 'green and black', making some good decisions, distributing the ball well as well as creating one try and then scoring another.
Fullback Jared Trevathan was very good at the back while the speedster Tau threatened every time he had the ball.
Fifita impressed in defence and on attack while halfback Sekope Maea had a tidy game on both attack and cover defence.
The front row set a solid platform and Nathan Tubb will have a fight on his hands to get the starting hookers role back off an enthusiastic Ben Hewitson.
Loan player Simon Marcel proved handy while his locking partner Sione Tauelangi also had a very good game.
Strachan also had a great battle with New Zealand Heartland captain Peter Rowe.
However, the standout in the forwards was Veikune, who was strong defending but also made some very valuable metres on attack especially when standing just off the rucks and mauls.
The only work-ons South Canterbury have are receiving the kickoff having fluffed three in a row and their fitness near the end needs improving.
Coach Chester Scott was not getting carried away with the win.
"I thought we played well in parts in both the first and second half but there is still plenty to do. It is a great start by getting the bonus point but every team will be tough."
Wanganui assistant coach Guy Lennox rued his side's poor start but credited South Canterbury's performance.
"They deserved the victory; they were more physical and urgent. We came back late but that is no consolation as you have to play 80 minutes."
South Canterbury take on a difficult assignment next, facing their bogey team West Coast in Greymouth.
The South Canterbury development team kept their unbeaten record with a 28-10 win over Aoraki Maori in the curtain-raiser.