Hawkes Bay 39 North Harbour 10
Luke McAlister returned from Europe looking to regain a black jersey, but his career has ended up in a black hole.
North Harbour's season continued its nose dive against an increasingly superb Hawkes Bay performance at Albany last night.
Nothing summed up Harbour's dire situation better than McAlister's sad form.
Mighty Hawkes Bay won the ITM Cup championship match by a record score over Harbour, relying on bursts of energy that were far too much for a half-hearted Harbour.
Second five-eighths McAlister's tackling was woeful, he dropped a simple pass, and his influence - in any positive way - was non-existent. You can only wonder how a career that once held so much promise has gone so wrong and he will head for European riches, again, with his reputation in serious decline. Harbour coach Liam Barry might wonder if it is worth persisting with him.
On the other side of the coin, you can only wonder how the versatile Hawkes Bay halfback Kahn Fotuali'i missed an All Black call up.
The New Zealand selectors' strange decision is Samoa's gain however.
Fotuali'i has the size to be a running threat with an artistry to his passing way beyond anything else available apart from the wizardry of Piri Weepu. Fotuali'i capably filled both the No 9 and 10 roles last night and while not in overwhelming form, his class was obvious.
Hawkes Bay put the matter beyond doubt in the 55th minute with an excellent build up producing a Tu Umaga-Marshall try for a 27-3 lead.
The visitors withstood serious disruptions to their halves to build a 17-3 lead by halftime. First five-eighths Daniel Kirkpatrick departed early with a hamstring injury and his replacement Chris Eaton didn't last long either.
North Harbour never looked like taking advantage of the comings and goings in what turned into a shocking display in the second-tier clash.
The match opened with a lot of endeavour being halted by errors. Hawkes Bay finally brought substance to proceedings with an excellent long range try finished by Tua Saseve. They finished the spell with another fine sequence from which prop Sona Taumalolo flung himself over the line.
Hawkes Bay 39 (T. Saseve, S. Taumalolo, T. Umaga-Marshall, G.Kaka, H. Forbes tries; A. Horrell 4 con, 2 pen)
North Harbour 10 (M. Luamanu try; W. Walker pen, B. Botica con). Halftime: 17-3.By Chris Rattue Email Chris