Two top-order batting collapses and the temptation of a romantic reunion combined to sink Wanganui's chances of a rare Hawke Cup victory over Taranaki yesterday.
Instead, the carrot of a 208-run chase for victory ended up 90 runs short after the young players were not able to hold their wickets against the rampant pace of Ryan Watson, who took 6-16 in a devastating nine-over spell.
Not helping matters was that the saviour of the Saturday innings, captain Dominic Rayner whose determined 96 had pulled his team from the brink after the top order batsmen lost their stumps to be 100-5 had other more urgent plans.
Rayner's partner, a stewardess, was on a rare layover in Auckland after an absence of several months so the skipper excused himself from the match on Sunday to see her.
Aside from the competent play of Henry Collier who had a good match with scores of 56 and 41 plus a couple of lower order cameos, the other youngsters failed to fire as Wanganui collapsed to 118-9, all out.
Manager Andrew Lock said yesterday afternoon that Rayner had "already been text" to inform him just how much he was missed.
Dominic Lock, who after a fine 61 in support of Rayner in the first innings, suddenly found himself thrust with the captaincy.
"On Saturday he was handed the vice-captaincy to learn from Dom (Rayner)," said Andrew Lock.
Desperate for an outright victory, Taranaki wanted an aggressive start but should have lost their trump card on Saturday morning as dynamic opener Peter Ingram was put down in slips by Max Carroll in a costly mistake. Ingram went on to smack 152 from 156 balls before newcomer Travis Bartels had him trapped leg before.
Bartels was the pick of the bowlers with 4-73 off his 16 overs as Taranaki signalled their clear intent, declaring at 293-8.
In reply, three of the four "Cs" Carroll, Callum Coker and Brett Cameron all lost their castles, and when Morgan Inness was caught at gully off Zimbabwe's Douglas Hondo, while Collier reluctantly left the park on a close caught-behind decision, Wanganui were eyeing the follow-on at 100-5.
Instead the Dom's Lock and Rayner took control with a 141 partnership, with Rayner stopped just short of his century as the recovery was complete at 260.
Taranaki were not disheartened and switched to virtual Twenty/20 mode pumping out 174-4 in 98 minutes and 23 overs.
Ingram (38 off 25 balls) and Dean Robinson (85no off 68) were a joy to watch, swatting 11 fours and four sixes between them.
Leaving Wanganui an inviting target of 208 in 60 overs, which even Taranaki coach Kerry O'Neill confided to Andrew Lock was a risky venture, Wanganui had an excellent start as Carroll (24) and Collier carried them through to 33-0 off eight overs, comfortably up with the required run rate.
But in essence already being a wicket down, it all went pear shaped as Watson ripped the youngsters apart in a devastating spell either side of the tea interval.
Carroll was bowled, again, while Coker edged a sitter to slip.
In consecutive balls Cameron was hit on the toe plum in front while Kane Watkin fell to a brilliant diving slip catch to Taranaki captain Dion Ebrahim. Dom Lock survived the hat-trick ball but fell shortly after to a gully catch. Collier tried to shore up his end but when Tom Bruce had him trapped in front, the home side's last chance had gone. Nick Blundell (25) and Inness (17) tried to salvage something from the wreckage, but Bruce would have them both before Watson wrapped up proceedings.