Pre-season form side Wairarapa Bush were sent packing from King Country’s home ground in Taupo, on the back of a 32-13 loss.
Poverty Bay dished out a thrashing of their own in Gisborne, sending East Coast back up the coast after a 52-12 hiding.
After a ninth-placed finish last year, King Country brought in former Waikato second-five Joe Perawiti to do damage in the midfield.
Paired with superb pivot Whakataki Cunningham, the duo took charge of the match in Taupo and cut the visitors to shreds.
Anthony Wise and Chanse Perham had King Country’s two tries, while Cunningham slotted both conversions and a further six penalties.
It wasn’t a complete performance from the team, but coach Kurt McQuilkin said he was pleased with the pressure put on the visitors, leading to all those penalty attempts.
Perawiti in particular was the star, proving hard to stop for Wairarapa’s defence.
His experience with Waikato’s NPC team in 2012 and ’13 showed, and rubbed off on those around him.
Over in Gisborne, former All Black Rico Gear has helped stamp his mark on an exciting side as assistant coach.
Former Highlanders, Crusaders and New Zealand Maori loose forward Jake Paringatai has come into the team to bolster the ranks, and that experience rubbed off on his teammates.
Lock Murray Hewson had a double for Poverty Bay, while Moss Doran, Sam Parkes, Brynn Uriarau, Paringatai and Donny Mill also crossed the white line.
Doran slotted four conversions and three penalties to take his personal tally to 22 points.
Manager George Ormond said the influence of Gear and head coach Mutu Ngarimu, in his second year with the team, has transformed the side.
”We had a tough preseason. We lost 71-zip against Wairarapa Bush, and then Hawkes Bay development put 50 past us,” he said.
”We came out today on the back of that and really delivered. We started at 50/1 to win the title. That dropped to 15/1 when they saw our players. I think it might drop some more now.”
Watisoni Lotawa, Josh Turner and Mick Judd scored tries for the visitors, but Horowhenua Kapiti fought back with tries to captain Antony Fox and Ha’amea Ahio.
Swampfoxes flanker Pepa Koloamatangi was sent off late after receiving his second yellow card of the match.
Results from the first round of Heartland rugby on Saturday were:
Thames Valley 19 (Josh Turner, Nic Judd, Watisona Lotawa tries; David Harrison 2 con) Horowhenua 19 (Haamea Ahio, Antony Fox tries; Hamish Buick 3 pen). HT: 6-14
South Canterbury 31 (Jared Trevathan, Erenimo Tua, Paula Fifta, Kurt Rooney tries; Fifta 4 con, pen) Wanganui 18 (Lasa Ulukuta, Jaye Flaws, Samu Kabunavanua tries; Josh Hamilton pen). HT: 24-0
Mid Canterbury 52 (Dwayne Burrows 3, Andrew Leathem, Setariki Koroitamana 2, Brenton Connell tries; Murray Williams 4 con, 3 pen) West Coast 27 (Sio Lavea, Sean McClure, Nick Makea tries; Tim Priest 3 con, 2 pen). HT: 13-27
King Country 32 (Josh Dais, penalty try tries; Whakataki Cunningham 2 con, 6 pen) Wairarapa Bush 13 (Inia Katia try, Ben Aoina con, 3 pen).HT: 16-03
Buller 17 (Penjamini Nabainivalu tries; James Lash 4 pen) North Otago 9 (Stephen Fennimore 3 pen). HT: 11-9
Poverty Bay 52 (Murray Hewson 2, Moss Doran, Sam Parkes, Brynn Uriaau, Jake Paringatai, Donny Mill tries; Moss Doran 4 con, 3 pen) East Coast 12 (Kareti Palmer, Kris Palmer tries, Kris Palmer con). HT: 28-12