The goal posts have shifted for a number of Mitre 10 Heartland Championship teams as 2019's opening round served up a reminder that no season is like another on Saturday afternoon.
Games played from Paeroa down to Ashburton began with a moment's silence to honour the recent passing of former All Black and Wairarapa Bush legend Sir Brian Lochore.
After not even making the Lochore Cup playoffs in 2018 with just two season wins, Poverty Bay started the boil-overs with their 17-15 upset of last year's folk heroes and defending Meads Cup champions Thames Valley, at Paeroa Domain.
The home side opened the scoring with the first of three unconverted tries, as winger Kieran Lee would ultimately get a double, along with second-five Danny Kayes dotting down.
Poverty Bay got the lead 7-5 through centre Andrew Ta'uatevalu scoring a try which he converted, before Thames Valley's second try to lead by three points just before the break.
Hooker Rikki Terekia then immediately flashed over in the corner to put the visitors back in front in the seesaw matchup, before Thames Valley scored again from good set piece build up, 15-12.
It was Ta'uatevalu deciding the matter as he followed up a break from flanker Adrian Wyrill to score his double with 15 minutes remaining, and the visitors defended their territory right to the fulltime whistle.
The most emotional game was played on the artificial turf of Masterton's Memorial Park, as Wairarapa Bush honoured Sir Brian by defeating perennial Meads Cup contenders Wanganui 28-18, taking the Bruce Steel Memorial Cup off them for only the second time in 49 years.
Winger Tristan Flutey palmed off tacklers to score a brilliant opening try for the home team, before Wanganui's veteran first-five Craig Clare snapped off Heartland's first drop goal of 2019.
Wairarapa Bush and Wanganui then traded tries, driven over by their packs for prop Sam Tufuga and hooker Roman Tutauha respectively.
It was a big day for the Tufuga family as Sam was joined by no less than three brothers in Wairarapa Bush's starting lineup - fellow prop Max, No 8 Kirk, and second-five Ueta.
First-five Tipene Hawira extended his team's lead to 15-8 at halftime, and despite Wanganui halfback Lindsay Horrocks scoring a converted immediately after the resumption to level the scores, the home side would not falter.
Hawira put them back in front with another penalty, and then winger Logan Hebenton-Prendeville scored an even better individual try than Flutey's as he left four defenders lying on his dash under the posts.
Wanganui reserve first-five Dane Whale closed the gap to a converted try with a late penalty, but Hawira replied with 90 seconds left to keep the visitors from a bonus point.
Denied a spot in the Lochore Cup group last year after being stripped of six competition points for an illegal player – in contentious circumstances after Horowhenua Kapiti led an eight-union appeal to the NZ Rugby appeals council – West Coast got straight into the swing of things in Greymouth.
The home side ran up eight tries at John Sturgeon Park in a 56-27 shut down of King Country, who still got a bonus point for four tries of their own, coming back with a more respectable second half after trailing 39-10 at the break.
West Coast flanker Josh Tomlinson scored a double, with three others in the starting forward pack also dotting down.
Fullback Todd Struthers had a profitable day with the boot, scoring 16 points.
The long away match was the furthest King Country will have to travel this campaign during round robin, with their remaining fixtures in the North Island.
For the first time in years, the Hanan Shield headed back down the road to Oamaru, as North Otago upset 2018's Meads Cup finalists South Canterbury 26-20 in Timaru.
It was the home side's first competition match for new coach Nigel Walsh after four straight years of Meads Cup playoffs, but no title, under Barry Matthews.
After a scoreless opening quarter, South Canterbury No 8 Siu Kakala opened the account with a converted try, before North Otago hit straight back through prop Melikisua Kolinisau off an attacking lineout, which was converted by halfback Robbie Smith.
Crucially for his team, Smith gave a flawless kicking performance with six straight goals, after they were out-scored three tries to two.
His first of four penalties gave North Otago the halftime lead, then he traded three-pointers with South Canterbury, before nailing a sideline conversion of winger Howard Packman's try.
Kakala got his double off a quick tap, but South Canterbury would rue giving away more penalties, as Smith extended his team's lead to 26-15.
A try off a drive from the lineout by captain Nick Strachan gave the home team some hope, but they ran out of time to hold onto their last piece of silverware.
In Westport, Buller welcomed back their favourite son James Lash as the nuggety playmaker scored 24 points in his team's 54-19 hammering of East Coast, who are still hunting their first Heartland victory since 2013.
Lash, the Heartland's record season points scorer, was out of the district this year helping Waimea Old Boys to win the Nelson Bays Division 1 club title.
He returned at halfback to score two of his team's eight tries, and converted seven of them.
Reserve back Tim Manawatu also picked up a double.
East Coast scored twice in the opening stanza to still be in the game at 28-14 by halftime, but ran out of legs after the long east to west coast's inter-island journey.
The results from this weekend could swing on the pendulum again this coming Saturday, as a number of top sides will be without their leading players in the New Zealand Heartland XV to play Manu Samoa at Eden Park.
The team goes into camp on Monday at midday in Auckland.
Results, Week One.
Poverty Bay 17 (Andrew Tauatevalu 2, Riki Terekia tries; Tauatevalu con) bt Thames Valley 15 (Kieran Lee 2, Danny Kayes tries). HT: 10-7 Thames Valley.
Buller 54 (James Lash 2, Tim Manawatu 2, Robbie Malneek, Alex Paterson, Jack Best, Petaia Saukuru tries; Lash 7 con) bt East Coast 19 (Hakarangi Tichborne 2, Mitchell Crosswell tries; Zane King 2 con). HT: 28-14.
Horowhenua Kapiti 17 (Scott Cameron, Nardus Eramus tries; Himiona Henare pen, 2 con) bt Mid Canterbury 10 (Seta Koroitamana, Josh McAtamney tries). HT: 17-5
West Coast 56 (Josh Tomlinson 2, Boris van Bruchem, Dan Davis, Brad Tauwhare, Jesse Pitman-Joass, Nick Thomson, Jared Mitchell tries; Todd Struthers 2 pen, 5 con) bt King Country 27 (Aletosio Tapili, Stephen Turner, Chulainn Mabbett-Sowerby, Bradly Jeffries tries; Evann Reihana 2 con, pen). HT: 39-10.
North Otago 26 (Melikisua Kolinisau, Howard Packman tries; Robbie Smith 4 pen, 2 con) bt South Canterbury 20 (Siu Kakala 2, Nick Strachan tries; Faalele Iosua pen, Willie Wright con). HT: 10-7.
Wairarapa Bush 28 (Tristan Flutey, Sam Tufuga, Logan Hebenton-Prendeville tries; Tipene Haira 3 pen, 2 con) bt Wanganui 18 (Roman Tutauha, Lindsay Horrocks tries; Dane Whale pen, con; Craig Clarke dropped goal). HT: 15-8.
New Zealand Heartland XV
Forwards: Mark Atkins (Poverty Bay), Scott Cameron (Horowhenua Kapiti), Carl Carmichael (King Country), Josh Clarke (North Otago), Ralph Darling (North Otago), James Goodger (Wairarapa Bush), Campbell Hart (Wanganui), Meli Kolinisau (North Otago), Seta Koroitamana (Mid Canterbury), Glen McIntyre (Thames Valley), Brett Ranga (Thames Valley), Troy Tauwhare (West Coast), Adrian Wyrill (Poverty Bay).
Backs: Craig Clare (Wanganui), Sione Holani (West Coast), Lindsay Horrocks (Wanganui), Harry Lafiuanei (Thames Valley), James Lash (Buller), Kalavini Leatigaga (South Canterbury), Peni Nabainivalu (Wanganui), Willie Paiaua (Horowhenua Kapiti), Timoci Serawalu (Horowhenua Kapiti), William Wright (South Canterbury), Matt Fetu (South Canterbury).