Hawkes Bay 7
Hawkes Bay will have to do it the hard way if they are to achieve Premiership survival after they were blown away by the combined strength of Manawatu and the Palmerston North wind.
The Magpies went into the match in a much better place after Bay of Plenty tripped up against Tasman on Thursday night. A win against Manawatu would have gone a long way to ensuring they stay in the top seven for next season but they will now need to pick up points against an ominous-looking Canterbury or somehow overcome a Waikato side who will be defending the Ranfurly Shield for the first time since they snaffled it off Taranaki.
They probably couldn't think of two more difficult assignments in New Zealand provincial rugby at the moment.
They will also have to do it without wing Zac Guildford, who lasted only 90 seconds of this contest today before re-injuring his troublesome hamstring.
Guildford was playing his first game in five weeks and admitted he probably came back a week too early but felt he had to play with the ITM Cup close to a conclusion.
The 23-year-old harboured ambitions of adding to his 10 tests for the All Blacks on the upcoming end-of-year tour or, at the least, going on tour with the New Zealand Maori but that now looks in serious jeopardy.
Guildford was in good shape to win the chase to a chip ahead in the second minute before his hamstring blew again and he immediately trudged to the sideline in disappointment.
It wasn't a day for wings anyway as a gusty westerly of up to 70kmh blew down FMG Stadium in Palmerston North.
Instead it was an afternoon when up-and-unders became long, raking kicks, anything other than throws to the front of the lineout were over-ambitious and kickoffs had the potential to go out on the full or backwards depending on who was doing it.
It had a massive influence on the game and also on each side's approach.
Manawatu, in particular, showed the ambition of a hermit playing into the wind in the first half, but they played to their strength with a monotonous series of pick-and-go runs. It worked tremendously well as they frustrated the Magpies and they would have been delighted to go to their sheds trailing just 7-3.
It was even more successful in the second half as they kept hammering away at Hawkes Bay and scored tries to second five-eighths Shaun Curry and giant prop David Te Moana.
The Magpies were virtually powerless to stem the tide and, when they had possession, ran into a green wall that showed no signs of cracking.
It's an attitude Hawkes Bay would do well to replicate in their next two games.
Manawatu 20 (Shaun Curry, David Te Moana tries; Nathan George 2 pens, 2 cons) Hawkes Bay 7 (Andrew Horrell try; Horrell con). HT: 3-7.