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The first round threw up a couple of odd results, none more surprising than the outcome at Kettle Park, where Shae Tucker single-handedly mastermind Zingari's 24-21 win against Dunedin.
Southern monstered University up front and capitalised on some awful mistakes to win 30-15 at Logan Park. That was wee shock as well.
Harbour and all its new faces prevailed 20-15 against Kaikorai at Bishopscourt. That was a real arm wrestle.
On Friday, Green Island was way too good for Alhambra-Union, winning 46-18 at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
Harbour 20 Kaikorai 15
Harbour has lost a lot of powerful bodies from the pack but may have actually traded up.
With all the new faces in the side it was only reasonable to expect the joint defending champion might take some time to rediscover its touch.
But Harbour recorded a tough 20-15 win against Kaikorai in a quality game.
The Hawks' trademark game of bullying their opponent at ruck time worked a treat. They used all that muscle to pound Kaikorai into submission at the breakdown.
They were also lethal on the counterattack. Fullback Sala Halaleva set up Harbour's first try when he sliced through a wobbly defensive line from broken play.
Charles Elton was on hand to take the last pass and reached over to score.
The second was all grunt work. Hooker Austin Atiga was driven over.
The Hawks led 10-8 and extended their lead to 13-8 through a penalty early in the second half.
The turning point came with about 10 minutes remaining. Elton made a massive tackle in the midfield when Kaikorai was looking to counter.
Harbour won a penalty shortly after and kicked for the corner. Massive prop Saula Mau drove over.
Kaikorai replied through reserve hooker Taine Rarere to set up a tense final few moments.
The home side worked its way back into a position to strike but a knock on from a 5m lineout sealed its fate.
Elton had a strong match for the Hawks and No8 Patrick McCurran was impressive for Kaikorai.
Zingari-Richmond 24 Dunedin 21
Zingari-Richmond defied all predictions, starting the season with a massive upset as it thoroughly outplayed a very ordinary Dunedin outfit at Kettle Park.
Zingari was superbly led by former University player Shae Tucker at first five-eighth, who was far and away the most dominant player on the park. He set up three of the four tries with clean breaks through the porous backline defence of Dunedin.
The visitor scored two early tries in the first spell to centre Willie Time and evergreen No 8 Chris Bell.
Somehow, through two George Witana penalties and a Tim Hogan try off fullback's Harrison Boyle break, Dunedin undeservedly led by a point at halftime. It could not hold the ball for more than three phases and the aimless back play was disappointing.
After an early Witana penalty in the second spell, Zingari took control and went over after 16 phases, as Tucker put midfielder Keenan Masina over for a converted try to lead by three points after 25 minutes.
Dunedin had its best attacking movement of the game and put Boyle over out wide, to give it a two-point lead with 12 minutes to go.
But Zingari was not to be denied. After a sloppy Dunedin exit from its own territory, had Tucker again split the line through woeful Dunedin defence and put replacement winger Vehekite Mo'ata'ane over to seal the game.
Besides Tucker, Highlander Kayne Hammington was hugely influential in the game from the base and Keegan Masina monstered Dunedin midfield. The worry for Zingari is it had to go to golden oldie scrums for the last 15 mins of the game.
For Dunedin, openside flanker Xavier English was far and away its best while captain and lock Mark Grieve Dunn and blindside Daniel Hogan were lively round the field. But the rest have a long way to go.
Southern 30 University 15
A clinical forward display proved the undoing of an enthusiastic University side.
Southern ran out a 30-15 victor to lift the Challenge Shield.
Denied by just two points in the final Shield game of last season, Southern was quick to stamp its authority through its big forward pack under the superb leadership of Axel Honheck, and an inspiration performance from rampaging No8 Mika Mafi.
Complementing Honheck in the tight five were Mike Mata'afa, Hisa Sasagi, Caleb Grace and Sam Pene with their skilful work at the breakdown, and an ability to apply pressure to University around the flanks.
Their exceptional high work rate provided a useful platform for the inside backs to create space out wide, leading to three of Southern's four tries.
One of the benefactors was left wing Mackenzie Haugh, who scored two sensational tries, the first through a kick and chase and the second through an intercept. Both tries originated from deep inside his own half. Haugh was also proved solid force in defence.
University initially appeared odds-on to record a successful defence of the shield and get its season off to a winning start. But a high error rate, combined with a disfunctional lineout proved its undoing.
But despite the long list of work-ons, prop Gus Williams, locks Josh Hill and Ben Reidy, along with flanker Sam Dickson featured with a solid work rate.
- ODT rugby writers