The Stihl Shop Wanganui Challenge Shield will now be locked away in the Bennett's Taihape clubrooms for the rest of the season after a strong second half carried them to a 29-3 shut out of Utiku Old Boys in the Memorial Park derby on Saturday.
As the Tasman Tanning Premier and Senior grades will now split into three different divisions, undefeated Taihape qualified at the top of the Senior standings to be the first side to be promoted into the new Division 2 – a hybrid of the Top 4 teams from there grade and two relegated sides from Premier.
Premier and Senior each have their own Challenge shields which are defended through the club round robin, with the holder at the end of the year receiving the sponsor prize.
Because Division 2 is a mix of the two grades, the Senior challenge shield will not be defended.
However, as the Grand Hotel Challenge Shield has stayed in the Top 6 of Premier, who will now form Division 1, current holders McCarthy's Transport Ruapehu will continue to defend that prize going forward.
At Memorial Park, Taihape were held scoreless in the first half, with Utiku kicking a penalty, before putting on 29 unanswered points in the second half.
Both teams were already safe to join Division 2, but preseason favourites Kelso Hunterville will not be joining them after their upset 19-10 loss at home to Marist Celtic.
Having won seven Senior titles in the past 10 years, Hunterville seem fated to never test themselves against Premier opposition, even the bottom two teams, as Celtic scored the sole points in the first half with a converted try, and contested everything to not only maintain their lead but keep the home side away from the solitary bonus point they needed to stay in the Top 4.
Hunterville will now have to content themselves to being favourites for Division 3, where Kaierau remains as their most likely strongest opponent after they surpassed Speirs Food Marton with a big 43-10 win at Marton Park.
At Spriggens Park, Border came as close as they have all season to finally getting on the mark, surrendering a 13-5 halftime lead to lose 24-23 to Marist Buffalo's.
Division 3 is going to be a larger seven-team group as Counties B has been formed from the growth in players the club has experienced in their 50th Jubilee year.
There were initially plans to have a Ruapehu Senior team for the second round of games as well, but this not longer appears the case.
Results, June 1
Tasman Tanning Premier No Games
Senior Championship, Week 9
At Spriggens Park: Marist Buffalo's bt Border 24-23. HT: 13-5 Border.
At Marton Park: Kaierau bt Speirs Food Marton 43-10. HT: 26-0.
At Hunterville: Marist Celtic bt Kelso Hunterville 19-10. HT: 7-0.
At MacNab Domain: Counties bt Black Bull Liquor Pirates 65-7 HT: 38-7.
At Memorial Park (Stihl Shop Wanganui Challenge Shield): Bennett's Taihape bt Utiku OB 29-3. HT: 3-0 Utiku.
Qualifiers for Championship second round
Division 1: Ruapehu, Taihape, Border, Kaierau, Marist, Ratana.
Division 2: Ngamatapouri, Pirates, Taihape, Utiku OB, Celtic, Counties.
Division 3: Hunterville, Kaierau, Marton, Buffalo's, Pirates, Border, Counties B.