Any thoughts that King Country supporters had of the NPC third-division teams being a soft touch have been put to bed.

Their side had a rude welcome to the realities of life in the bottom flight when they lost their campaign opener at home, 30-28, to a committed and well-drilled Horowhenua-Kapiti side.

Relegated from the second division after a torrid last winter, King Country experienced more of the same pain in front of their own fans in Te Kuiti.

And last season's beaten finalists, North Otago, issued a warning to their rivals with a resounding 60-6 walloping of West Coast in a one-sided encounter which featured 10 tries.

Elsewhere, South Canterbury saw off Buller 38-15 in Timaru, and Wanganui beat Wairarapa Bush 33-20 in Wanganui.

But it was at Te Kuiti, where former Samoan international Peter Fatialofa was making his NPC coaching debut with King Country, that the most interesting result of the opening round of competition was delivered.

Horowhenua-Kapiti made better use of possession and opportunities, although King Country had a chance to scratch out a draw late in the game when winger Luke Gates scored his third try, only to see Roger Warren's conversion attempt drift wide.

Each side scored four tries but King Country committed basic mistakes to allow Horowhenua-Kapiti back in the game after the home side led 23-15 with 20 minutes remaining.

Horowhenua-Kapiti then scored tries to replacement Eldon Patea and No 8 Jack Keogh, and Michael Stokes added a penalty and conversion.

In Oamaru, North Otago were in an unforgiving mood against a weak West Coast side.

It was largely one-way traffic, even in the first spell, when North Otago played into a stiff breeze. It hardly held them back, though, as they forged a 29-5 advantage by the interval before pulling away further.

Hotili Asi scored three of North Otago's tries and Ofa Latu two.

Last year's champions, South Canterbury, opened their title defence with a convincing win over Buller, scoring three tries to lead 25-5 at the break.

Buller fought back in the second half, but South Canterbury scrambled tries in broken play to Isaac Russell and Bevan Stewart to ease out to an unassailable lead.

In Wanganui, two tries from left winger David Kereti helped the home team to open their campaign with a good result over Wairarapa Bush.

Kereti's tries came before halftime, when Wanganui led 16-13.

Further tries to right winger Raymond Lee Mason and new centre Tupae Pati in the second spell saw Wanganui collect a bonus point.

Wairarapa Bush, with a much heavier pack, looked dangerous midway through the second spell when only three points separated the sides.

But a try from former Samoan international Tupae Pati 16 minutes from fulltime enabled Wanganui to regain control.

- NZPA