A poor first half against Southland left the New Zealand Heartland XV out of contention for the Michael Jones trophy at the Jock Hobbs Memorial Under 19 tournament in Taupo on Wednesday.
Heartland was beaten 36-8, being outscored four tries to one in the semifinal matchup.
Assistant coach Justin Lock said the team put the ball out on the full on their first three exits of the match and it didn't get much better after that, as missed lineouts and fumbles left them stuck in their own 30m area with around 10 per cent of the possession.
"They dominated the game, they put us under a huge amount of pressure.
"It was hard to watch the first half."
Given they were on the back foot, Lock was happy the team was only trailing 10-3 late in the half, however Southland got their second converted try before the break.
In the second half they played the percentages with four successful penalty kicks and two more tries.
Halfback Jay Renton, who has already made his Mitre 10 Cup debut for the Stags, contributed 13 points with the boot and kicked well in general play as Southland played mistake-free rugby.
Heartland's points came from a first half penalty by Tomas Hanham-Carter (Mid Canterbury) and second half try from Hurakia Firth (Thames Valley).
Whanganui players Dylan Bowater, Hamish Bennett, Chris Breuer and Harry Symes started the match, while reserve Dylan Gallien jogged on after 25 minutes.
Captain Bowater came off after taking a head knock and will be assessed before the last game against Hawke's Bay tomorrow after they lost 20-3 to Counties Manukau.
Heartland will be confident as 15 of them were in the Hurricanes Heartland Under 20 side who beat Hawke's Bay 10-8 in Napier on September 2.
However, Lock said Hawke's Bay have reinforced since then, bringing in a couple of the young players from their wider Magpies squad.
"The boys are genuinely disappointed in their performance, so the motivation is there to get up."
If they beat Hawke's Bay, they will equal the best performance by a Heartland team, who finished third in the Michael Jones grade of the inaugural 2014 tournament.
The game will be televised on Sky TV at 12pm.