The makeup of the top four of Tasman Tanning Premier has flip-flopped with the third different leader in three rounds as Byford's Readimix Taihape reversed their March defeat to Waverley Harvesting Border on Saturday.
Taihape moved to the head of the table and earned the Grand Hotel Challenge Shield along the way, ending Border's reign at seven days, as overcoming the 154km trip between the two towns remains a puzzle that the visiting team's can't solve.
After losing 39-11 away at Dallison Park in March, Taihape wracked up a 39-14 win at Memorial Park, scoring five tries to two as they took a 15-point lead into halftime and put the match away with two more tries in the second half.
The Taihape tryscorers had all been named in the Country team for this Friday night's representative trial with Town, with Te Rangi Tapu McLeod getting a 16-point haul, while player-coach Dane Whale scored a try and added a drop goal.
Kameli Kuruyabaki added his second try in two games since joining Taihape the previous weekend.
Border's young outside backs Harry Symes and Grayson Tihema scored their team's tries, but the lack of bonus points moved the former leaders back down to third spot, while Black Bull Liquor Pirates stalemate with Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau has seen them shift from first to being in the dangerzone of fourth spot in two weeks.
Those misfortunes allowed McCarthy's Transport Ruapehu to lift back up into second place, as they picked up the expected five points from the 60-10 hammering of Settler's Honey Ngamatapouri in Ohakune.
Ngamatapouri's goal heading north to Rochfort Park was to try to halve the scoreline from their 95-5 destruction in March, and in cooler conditions after some rain and snow, they were giving a stronger effort in the first half, while Ruapehu had issues with collapsing the scrum and had to play some of the second half with 14 men after tryscoring halfback Kahl Elers-Green was binned for a high tackle.
However, the home side soon clicked into gear, as the visitor's again ran out of gas in the final quarter.
Winger Shaquille Waara picked up where he left off in March with a double, while captain Roman Tutauha also grabbed two tries before coming off with injury.
Reserve prop Gabriel Hakaraia steadied the scrum and scored a try, while Craig Clare, who missed the 90-point win, moved into first-five and contributed 20 points.
Also as expected, Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist has closed right up on the top four, but that is the end of their all-but guaranteed five points as they defeated Harvey Round Motors Ratana 66-31 in a try-fest at Spriggens Park.
On their club day, Marist did not have it all their own way, leading 26-12 at halftime, as Ratana would ultimately gain their first competition point of the season with three more tries.
But the home side still cut loose, scoring at a point-a-minute in the second stanza, as their in-form players in hooker Jack Yarrall and fullback Cameron Crowley both scored two tries.
Veteran Ricky Alabaster came into the starting lineup at halfback and shared the kicking duties with first-five Ashton Coates, each landing four conversions.
Having played both the bottom of the table teams and duly collected the ten available points, Marist must now face "murderers row" for the remainder of the second round against all the playoff contenders.
It was a great Saturday for the Taihape club overall as Bennett's Taihape completed their late first round comeback in the Senior competition to upend Speirs Food Marton with a 37-20 win at Memorial Park, thereby sneaking into the top 6 for the split into championship and consolation grades.
The home side led 24-5 at halftime, and although Marton came back with three second half tries, they could not add any conversions.
Taihape's success spelled the demise of Utiku Old Boy's championship aspirations, as they were well-beaten 45-17 by Marist Celtic on the Wanganui Racecourse grounds, and will now have to settle for being favourites for the consolation title.
Counties also made themselves safe in the top 6, while confirming the Stihl Shop Wanganui Challenge Shield will be defended in the championship grade, but it wasn't easy as they ground out an 18-8 win over a Marist Buffalo's team with nothing to lose.
As it was Marist club day, they switched the Buffalo's challenge onto Spriggens Park to play in front of the supporters, as Celtic took to the Racecourse field, and while the home side was still in it at 10-3 to Counties at halftime, the visitors pushed themselves out of reach.
After losing the Shield to Counties, Kelso Hunterville took their frustrations out on Seales Winslow Pirates, who came off the bye and straight into a 78-12 hammering, with Hunterville scoring 49 points in the second half for their home supporters.
Although already safe in the top 6, Border had a tough afternoon facing Ruapehu in Ohakune, as the home side came from 17-7 at halftime to narrowly miss out at 24-20.
The points for the two Senior competitions will now reset to 0, with Hunterville likely to duke it out with Celtic for the championship crown, while Utiku Old Boys will be favourites for the consolation grade, as the team which withdrew from Premier at the start of 2018 now has slipped to the second tier of Senior.
There is no Premier rugby this coming Queen's Birthday Weekend, with the Town vs Country representative trial being held on Cooks Gardens this Friday night, kickoff 6pm.
The Town team under coach Jerome McCrea will train at Cullinane College on Wednesday evening, while the Country squad under coach Andrew Evans will train in Taihape.
Both sessions start at 6.30pm.
Results, May 26
Tasman Tanning Premier, Round 9.
Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist 66 (Jack Yarrall 2, Cameron Crowley 2, Viki Tofa, Peni Nabainivalu, Taione Ratu, Cajan Teki, Sam Madams, Josaia Bogileka tries; Ashton Coates 4 con, Ricky Alabaster 4 con) bt Harvey Round Motors Ratana 31 (Arahi Hawira, Dale Akuhata, Corrie Pikimaui, Aaron Paranihi, Aporo Ragede tries; Tyson Manaena 3 con). HT: 26-12.
Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau 18 (Shandon Scott, James Dorgan tries; Scott 2 pen, con) drew with Black Bull Liquor Pirates 18 (Elijah Ah Chong, Patrick Hiscox tries; Junior Ainea pen, con; Fa'alele Iosua pen). HT: 15-8 Kaierau.
Grand Hotel Challenge Shield – Byford's Readimix Taihape 39 (Jaye Flaws, Te Rangi Tapu McLeod, Kameli Kuruyabaki, Wiremu Cotterill, Dane Whale tries; McLeod pen, 4 con, Whale dg) bt Waverley Harvesting Border 14 (Harry Symes, Grayson Tihema tries; Tihema con, Nick Harding con). HT: 22-7.
McCarthy's Transport Ruapehu 60 (Shaquille Waara 2, Roman Tutauha 2, Jamie Hughes, Troy Brown, Kahl Elers-Green, Gabriel Hakaraia, Craig Clare tries; Clare pen, 6 con) bt Settlers Honey Ngamatapouri 10 (Josaia Dawai try; Sheldon Parkina pen, con). HT: 25-3.
Senior Championship, Week 11.
At Spriggens Park (Stihl Shop Wanganui Challenge Shield): Counties bt Marist Buffalo's 18-8. HT: 10-3.
At Racecourse: Marist Celtic bt Utiku OB 45-17. HT: 19-5.
At Hunterville: Kelso Hunterville bt Seales Winslow Pirates 78-12. HT: 29-0.
At Memorial Park: Bennett's Taihape bt Speirs Food Marton 37-20. HT: 24-5.
At Rochfort Park: Border bt Ruapehu 24-20. HT: 17-7.