North Harbour 28
It's hard to recall a worse time to be a North Harbour rugby fan.
After suffering their eighth straight ITM Cup defeat to Wellington today, the Auckland side is staring down the barrel of their worst season in the club's 27 year history.
With midweek rumblings of discontent throughout the camp, and only three bonus points to show for over two months of hard toil, the Harbour faithful could be forgiven for willing their season to an abrupt halt.
And despite scoring four tries today, there was a perverse feeling that no matter what they did, it just wasn't going to be good enough.
They were up against a classy Wellington side, which rested six players from their midweek win over Bay of Plenty, and still cruised to the top of the Premiership with the bonus-point win.
Ardie Savea has made a big impression in his first year of first-class rugby, and he added a few more clips to his growing highlight reel today. The the 18-year-old was moved from No 8 to openside by coach Chris Boyd, and used his pace, step and timing in support to be Wellington's main protagonist in attack.
Harbour threatened to return to their frustrating selves early in the first half, wasting invaluable possession in attack with knock-ons, poor decisions and ultimately no final product.
And when Wellington first five-eighths Lima Sopoaga scored Wellington's third try by running through a gap fit for a bus, it looked like the wheels were once again well and truly coming off.
But Harbor refused to roll over and showed commendable fight to reduce the halftime lead to six points after Codey Rei and Jimmy Tuivaiti scored well-deserved tries.
Wellington targeted complacency as their biggest threat in the pre-match and knew the importance of killing off their third game in seven days as early as possible.
So when replacements Kaipati Gaualofa and Shaun Treeby effectively put the game out of reach with Wellington's fourth and fifth, it put the home crowd at ease.
Harbour finished strongly with Manu Leiataua and Nafi Tuitavake earning the visitors a bonus point with two late tries.
Wellington finish the season against Otago and Tasman while Harbour will be desperate for their first win when they meet Auckland and Tasman.
Wellington 34 (Ardie Savea, Ross Filipo, Lima Sopoaga, Kaipati Gaualofa, Shaun Treeby tries; Sopoaga pen, 3 cons) North Harbour 28 (Codey Rei, Jimmy Tuivaiti, Nafi Tuitavake, Manu Leiataua tries; Bryn Hall 2 cons, Rei 2 cons). HT: 20-14