It was a one-two clean sweep for Japan over New Zealand's number one pairings at the Bay of Plenty Times Mount Maunganui Open held at Mount Main Beach during the weekend.
In the women's final Akiko Hasegawa and Ayumi Kusano defeated Julia Tilley and Shanna Polley in three sets, while Tauranga duo of Sam O'Dea and Mike Watson lost another three-set thriller to Katsuhiro Shiratori and Yuya Ageba.
Both finals captivated the large crowd of onlookers gathered beside the Mount Surf Club in a world class display of beach volleyball despite the blustery conditions.
In the men's final, double Olympic gold medallist Shirato, 39, proved to be the difference, showcasing all his experience and ability to win crucial clutch points against last year's Bay of Plenty Sports Awards Team of the Year.
While O'Dea and Watson were disappointed to relinquish their national title, their focus is on peaking for the Olympic qualifiers to come in Australia in June, where the top eight teams in Asia will play-off for one place in Rio.
"We definitely had some opportunities there. Shiratori showed some really good control which definitely showed through in some situations," O'Dea said.
"For us a big work on is service pressure, one of the key elements, and block defence can work really well.
"It is always tough to lose on our home beach but our focus is on June. This one for sure was big and we want to win everything we can. It was a tough loss and Japan are going to be at that tournament [in June] so we are going to have to beat them there.
"We have been up and down with them over the last year but they got the better of us this time."
Earlier in the women's semifinals, Tauranga locals Alice Bain, 21, and Kiana Tawa, 18, put up a spirited performance against the full-time professional Japanese champions with Olympic experience.
Bain says the Japanese were a strong, consistent team and very powerful.
"Playing them was a lot of fun, as we got to run around and pick up some tips and play a very experienced team," Bain said.
"The biggest learning was we have to work on our own game and be more consistent to be able to compete with top teams as we would make errors that they don't make. Just simple things like missing serves, not getting some ups that we should get and I think we need to work on being more aggressive when we play."
Top class beach volleyball returns to Mount Maunganui on January 26-27 with the 2016 Volleyball NZ Age Group Beach Champs.