Good luck to those teams that have genuine aspirations of knocking Canterbury off their ITM Cup perch.
Canterbury's victory over Waikato in a very open game was fashioned on a clinical opening 12 minutes, at which they led 20-0 after three sparkling tries. Their rugby was high-paced, accurate and multi-skilled. To the fore were hooker Codie Taylor, loosies Jed Brown and Matt Todd and No 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, who continues to play with authority at this level.
Waikato's defence was admittedly flimsy, but some of Canterbury's play was irresistible. Johnny McNicholl set up the first try, to Taylor, after a searing counter-attacking run.
Todd was over after an offload by wing Patrick Osborne on the end of eight phases.
Waikato's bunch of greenhorns had not seen the ball except at kickoffs, though they looked decidedly useful once they got going on attack. Wing Joe Webber looked the most likely, scoring the opening try after No 10 Damian McKenzie chip and chase.
His captain Brad Weber darted around the blindside of a ruck, chipped ahead and regathered to spark the home side to 20-30 just after the break. But for every Waikato try, Canterbury had replied with a counter-punch of their own and more.
Todd's offloading game showed another string to his large bow, and he created Bleyendaal's try. Brown wasn't to be outdone, having already sent wing Milford Keresoma between the uprights off a lineout and offload.
Waikato may be naive defensively, but they have X-factor with the ball, and a halves combination of Weber and McKenzie that will create and excite, feeding the likes of Declan O'Donnell out wide. Weber's second was a classic, set up by O'Donnell.
Canterbury cleared the benches, but scarcely missed a beat. Centre Jack Goodhue, out of Northland via Auckland, scored on debut for his new province.
Auckland may feel better about themselves after this. They copped a 48-9 hiding in round one. There might be more beatings ahead for Canterbury's opponents on this evidence. Waikato has just five days to lick their wounds before hosting Taranaki on Wednesday night, while Canterbury have an extra night to concoct a plan to dissect Northland next Thursday.
Canterbury (Codie Taylor, Matt Todd, Matt Symons, Milford Keresoma, Tyler Bleyendaal, Patrick Osborne, Jack Goodhue, Tom Sanders tries; Willi Heinz 3 con, Bleyendaal 2 con, 2 pen, Mitch Drummond con) Waikato (Brad Weber 2, Joe Webber tries; Damian McKenzie 3 con, pen, Albert Nikoro pen) HT: 30-13 Canterbury
Channelling DB Clarke
Waikato fullback Albert Nikoro landed a 59m bomb of a penalty goal in the 23rd minute, evoking memories of Frans Steyn here in 2009 or Don Clarke in the 1950s.
Joe Webber skirted with the touchline on a brilliant 40m run late in the first spell, beating several defenders, but it was ruled out by the TMO