It was a painful end to an otherwise excellent summer for Property Brokers United as too many of their star players had already packed up the kit before Saturday's torturous 26-run loss to Paraparaumu in the Bullocks Coastal Challenge final at Victoria Park.
United had successfully weathered the departure of several university-based players midway through the campaign, but the loss of three veterans to injury and family committments not only robbed them of bowling options but more importantly their steady hands in the middle to lower order.
Reliance would be nearly total on leading batsman Greg Smith and allrounder Simon Badger to guide the home side to whatever target would be set, as Paraparaumu won the toss and went in first on the Tasman Tanning No1 pitch, grinding their way to 159 in 47 overs.
And while Smith and Badger (32) salvaged United from 24-4 with a watchful 83-run partnership under constant pressure - Smith's 52 making him the highest runscorer of the competition - their demise at the hands of Paraparaumu's proven matchwinner Ramesh Subasinghe (2-13) and spinner Craig Emmott (2-7) exposed United's soft underbelly of youngsters and Premier 2 regulars.
The final five wickets fell for 26 runs over the next nine overs, with Subasinghe, Emmott and in-form Josh Bohmer (3-17) skittling them aside for 133 to end a game United could easily have won with just one more key player in the right position.
But with injured skipper Tom Lance reduced to scorekeeper with his bandaged ACL, leading wicket taker Robbie Power having made unchangeable travel plans months ago and allrounder Brendon Walker acting as 12th man because he had to leave by 3.30pm for a wedding, there was no 'cometh the hour, cometh the man' moment.
"We were understrength today and it really showed, especially in our batting," said captain Gerard Hobbs.
"The top 6 was probably our key. But [Paraparaumu] deserved it.
"It's depressing because we've dominated so much in this Coastal Challenge. The boys are pretty gutted."
Paraparaumu were in a similar boat as their chances rested on the shoulders of 2-3 players, and when United's Ritesh Verma (2-41) trapped Andre Halbert (29) in front to break the 49-run partnership with Kelsey Fahey (21), Paraparumu were scrambling as United's attack of Ben Toyne (3-36), James Pennefather (3-25) and sole remaining spinner Dylan Martin (1-14 from 10) stepped up in the absence of others.
But Subasinghe (39) weathered the storm while Bohmer (21) added priceless runs from No10 in a 54-run stand over 14 overs to give Paraparaumu a total they could work with in the circumstances.
Without Lance to anchor the run chase, neither United opening batsmen Allistar Bostock or Matthew Boswell could get going, while the promoted Hobbs and Verma were undone by a fired-up Bohmer.
Badger joined Smith and they worked single after single around the park to keep the scoreboard ticking over and ahead of the small required run rate.
But nagging doubt remained as everyone wondered when Paraparaumu would pull the trigger and reintroduced Subasinghe for his remaining overs, and the answer came in the 39th as with his very first ball of the new spell, the paceman would remove Smith's middle stump.
The game was all but decided by that moment and when Badger misread Emmott's flight and was bowled in the next over, Paraparaumu closed in for the kill.
Only Toyne (12 not out) was able to hold up under the strain, but no-one else could stay with him before joining the long line of United batsmen heading back to the pavilion with heads bowed.
C Emmott c M Boswell b S Badger 1
A Halbert lbw b R Verma 29
K Fahey ct G Hobbs b J Pennefather 21
R Lorimer b R Verma 7
N Harvey ct G Hobbs b B Toyne 16
R Subasinghe b J Pennefather 39
J Logan ct M Boswell b D Martin 2
S Windle b B Toyne 0
D McNamara b B Toyne 5
J Bohmer not out 21
J Singh b J Pennefather 0
Total: 159 in 46.3 overs.
Bowling: B Toyne 10 overs, 0 maidens, 36 runs, 3 wickets; S Badger 8-0-25-1; J Pennefather 6.3-0-25-3; R Verma 10-1-41-2; D Martin 10-3-14-1; G Hobbs 1-0-10-0.
A Bostock run out (K Fahey) 2
M Boswell lbw b S Windle 1
G Hobbs ct D McNamara b J Bohmer 9
G Smith b R Subasinghe 52
R Verma b J Bohmer 0
S Badger b C Emmott 32
S Holloway run out (J Bohmer/R Subasinghe) 5
A Marsh b C Emmott 0
B Toyne not out 12
J Pennefather b J Bohmer 0
D Martin b R Subasinghe 1
Total: 133 in 47.2 overs.
Bowling: S Windle 5-1-10-1; D McNamara 7-0-20-0; J Singh 5-0-18-0; J Bohmer 6-1-17-3; N Harvey 10-1-31-0; R Subasinghe 9.2-1-13-2; J Logan 2-1-7-0; C Emmott 3-0-7-2.
Result: Paraparaumu won by 26 runs