With both Challenge Shields changing hands including a rare home win for Kaierau, Ngamatapouri scalping Ruapehu for the first time, Taihape producing a "Houdini" escape win for the second week running, and two drawn senior matches, there were plenty of talking points from the second round of Tasman Tanning 2020 Wanganui club rugby fixtures last Saturday.
Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau has managed just four victories over Waverley Harvesting Border in 18 games since 2011 but the deserved 19-12 win to lift the Grand Hotel Challenge Shield was the first home success in at least a quarter of a century.
The Waverley club switched to Taranaki in 1996 after winning the 1995 local championship and returned to Wanganui in 2011.
After an agonising single point loss to defending champions Byford's Readimix Taihape seven days earlier it was a fine team effort by the 2019 Metropolitan domestic title holders to lift the Challenge Shield off a strong Border squad that included 10 current Wanganui Heartland reps.
Winger Shandon Scott, who repped six times for Wanganui in 2018, was a hero for Kaierau, scoring a try and kicking three penalty goals.
Settlers Honey Ngamatapouri pulled off an historic maiden victory against six-times champions McCarthy Transport Ruapehu with a fine 33-17 win at Rochfort Park, scoring five tries to three in the process.
Considering it was 95-5 to the hosts on the same field two years ago there was every reason for the Waitotara Valley team to celebrate on the long bus trip home.
The two teams have now met five times since Ngamatapouri joined the premier ranks in 2017 after winning the senior title the previous season.
Although out-scoring Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist three tries to two, Taihape was lucky to escape with a 19-18 victory on Spriggens Park.
In a carbon copy of a week earlier the fate of the fixture depended on a very late match conversion attempt.
Both attempts were from kickable range with Taihape delighted when Marist fullback Ashton Coates suffered the same fate as Kaierau first five James Durston seven days earlier and narrowly missed the target with victory deciding kicks.
Ngamat (9 pts) leads Taihape by a single point with Border, Kaierau and Marist third equal on 5 pts and Ruapehu yet to register a point.
Harvey Round Motors Ratana, who elected to drop from premiers to seniors this year, convincingly de-throned Utiku OB of the Stihl Shop Wanganui Challenge Shield with a 48-17 home victory and has the luxury of a bye this coming weekend.
The first two draws of the winter were at Hunterville and Cooks Gardens – Kelso Hunterville 13-all against defending champions Bennett's Taihape and Marist Buffalos' 15-all against Counties.
Marist Celtic leads the senior table with a maximum 10 pts, one ahead of fellow unbeaten sides Kaierau and Ratana.
Celtic beat struggling 2019 premiers Black Bull Liquor Pirates, a side that has conceded 103 points in two outings, 51-0 on Spriggens Park and Gemini Pepper Construction Kaierau won 25-13 at home against Border.
It is little wonder there were a few shock waves around the central North Island mountain community when their consistently reliable Ruapehu premier rugby side was trounced 58-13 by Border on the opening day of premier play.
Defeat at the hands of hosts Border came as no surprise in the first Grand Hotel Challenge Shield game of the season but the size of the score, which included 10 tries, rocked the visiting Ruapehu players and supporters.
Ruapehu, who went through the first qualifying round (Paul Mitchell Cup and $500 Grand Café and Easter voucher) unbeaten last season, has reached the overall championship play-offs for the past 16 years.
The Ohakune-based club, winners of the union-wide title six times between 2008 and 2018 and since 2004 has been runners-up on three occasions, also placing third four times and fourth three times.
At Dallison Park this time it was Ruapehu's 250th match since the start of the club's impressive Top Four era in 2004 with the win-loss record now standing at 183 victories, three draws and 64 defeats.
Opposing sides have recorded 50 or more points seven times in 38 fixtures when the "Mountain Men" have conceded 30-plus points, with the latest hiding the fourth highest loss.
The unbeaten 2003 Ratana side holds the largest score against Ruapehu since the turn of the century with 67-3 at home, a year before the Ohakune club started its semi-final blitz.
That season Dwayne Corfield scored 145 points for Ratana who also whipped Taihape 61-0 at home after being held to 15-all away in the first round, Marton 57-6 on Marton Park, Ruapehu 52-12 in Ohakune, Tech 53-7 and Marist 44-14 at the Paa and Utiku OB 50-11 on Memorial Park.
There were also 30 pointers in Wanganui wins over Marist (30-6) and Tech (36-17) with Ratana completing a hat-trick of titles with a 25-10 victory against Marist to end 2003 with 609 points from 17 games including a default win from Marton on opening day.
Ruapehu's second heaviest defeat was 60-0 at Rochfort Park against eventual runners-up Marist (beaten 16-13 by Ratana in the final) in 2001. Johnny Muir scored 249 pts for Marist that year.
There have been five scores in the 50 point range against Ruapehu including 58-12 in 2004 away against unbeaten champions Kaierau who also took Utiku OB apart 73-0 and 70-15, Marton 86-0 and 78-0 and Wanganui OB 86-3, finishing the season with 814 points from 18 outings.
That year Kaierau scored 122 tries, Tupae Pati finishing with 244 pts, Jerry Meafou 105 (21 tries) and Akapusi Qera 100 (20 tries).
Ruapehu's fourth highest defeat was this month's 58-13 away loss to Border with eight of the 10 conceded tries coming from the rep trio of Vereniki Tikoisolomone (4), Craig Clare and Lindsay Horrocks (2 each).
Although finishing fourth behind Ratana, Marist and Pirates the 2001 Kaierau team beat Ruapehu 57-15 at the Devon Road field and also romped home 80-14 against Pourewa and 76-5 v Tech on the same field and 76-25 against Pourewa on Marton Park with Tupae Pati notching up 250 pts.
Champions Ratana registered the other two 50-plus scores against Ruapehu – 53-7 at home in 2001 and 52-12 at Ohakune in 2003, Dwayne Corfield scoring 124 and 145 points those two years.
Ruapehu was beaten by scores in the 40 range seven times between 2001 and 2017 headed by home losses to Ratana (49-5 in 2001 and Kaierau (49-15 in 2002) and away against Taihape (48-0 in 2016) with the largest conceded score at Spriggens Park 48-17 against Marist in 2017.
The club may not have the depth of experienced players this season but Ruapehu has proven by its consistent high placings since 2004 that it can be a major threat if it can reach the play-offs.
Interesting third rounders
Kaierau may have a winning advantage against Ngamatapouri at premier level but the city siders are likely to face very lively opposition at Settlers Domain on Saturday.
An added target for the hosts after an historic victory against Ruapehu last weekend will be striving to win the Grand Hotel Challenge Shield for the first time.
Kaierau has won on four previous trips up the Waitotara Valley – 51-12 last year, 46-31 in 2018 and 62-29 and 13-12 (consolation semi-final) in 2017 but lost 20-29 at home in 2017 and won 60-14 at the Devon Road complex in 2018.
After being pipped by a single point by Taihape and upsetting Border last weekend in home games it is a first away assignment for Kaierau and this time it is a Challenge Shield defence against the top of the table opposition.
It is also a key game for Kaierau in its bid to retain the Alec Takarangi Cup (Metro title) at the end of the season.
After a bold showing against Taihape last Saturday Marist will be looking for another strong home effort on the club's Old Timers' Day when it hosts Ruapehu.
Although beaten 40-10 at Spriggens Park last season and 45-10 in 2018, Marist won 48-17 in 2017 and 35-21 in 2016 at home but shaded 10-9 in the 2017 semi-finals.
It is an important game for both teams in their bid to qualify for the semi-finals. Ruapehu is stranded at the bottom of the points table and Marist is second to last.
Last year's finalists, Taihape and Border, clash at Memorial Park in a very vital match which could determine the winners of the Paul Mitchell Cup first round trophy.
Last season Border won both qualifying rounds – 10-9 at home and 43-10 away but Taihape turned the tables 23-16 in extra time in a thrilling final at Cooks Gardens.
Taihape, in a first home fixture for the year, is second on the points table thanks to two one-point margin wins on visits to Wanganui while Border has beaten Ruapehu and lost to Kaierau.
The clubs have each won four games at Memorial Park since 2011.
In the seniors, top of the table Celtic play sister team Buffalos at Spriggens Park, second-placed Kaierau meet Counties at McNab Domain, second equal Ratana has the bye, co-bottom Pirates and Border are on the Racecourse with both Taihape (v Marton) and Utiku OB (v Hunterville) at home.