When it clicks for Steelform Wanganui, it really clicks, as Cooks Gardens played host to another record scoreline in the 2017 Mitre 10 Heartland Championship.

The new 'Pinetree Log' of the Sir Colin Meads Memorial Trophy was lifted by co-captains Cole Baldwin and Roman Tutauha after their side racked up 13 tries in a 80-3 destruction of King Country to put themselves back into the Meads Cup playoff group with two games remaining.

The coaching staff had called for better cohesion in the backline and Craig Clare, shifted out to centre, took that as a personal mission - providing the decisive pass on each of Wanganui's opening five tries - including stopping under the posts to wait for Baldwin to collect and score on the occasion of breaking the record for most Heartland Championship games.

Clare's hamstring started giving him some concerns but by the time he was substituted the job was done, as Wanganui's blood was up on a perfect dry day for running rugby - carving King Country to pieces in even more impressive fashion than the Wairarapa Bush hammering in Round 1.

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Teenager Cody Hemi then took charge from first-five, scoring two tries, while winger Cameron Crowley and second-five Timoci Seruwalu were back in vintage form - Crowley getting his double with speed and serves, Seruwalu just running over people.

Winger Jona Sawailau likewise grabbed two tries, with the backline well served by their forwards who were rock solid in the scrum and sharp with ball in hand.

Prop Viki Tofa, No8 Bryn Hudson and flanker Angus Middleton were excellent, while reserve prop Kamipeli Latu and debutant Josh Lane imposed themselves well.

Fullback Nick Harding linked in strongly with the outside backs, although he was just slightly off-key when he took over the goalkicking for Clare in the second half, eventually delegating to Hemi, otherwise an already cricket-scoreline could have been more unpalatable for King Country.

Their All Black halfback Alby Mathewson started well as his team's primary kicker in general play, while showing how much quicker a professional can distribute the ball, but it was Wanganui's halfback Lindsay Horrocks who eventually took control of the match, earning the bragging rights over his King Country lock cousin Mike.

Most pleasing for Wanganui after the setbacks in Canterbury is they were back within their discipline targets, receiving a 15-5 penalty count in their favour, as Hawke's Bay referee Tipene Cottrell eventually reduced the visitors to 13 men after second-five Jesse Williams and reserve forward Manuele Alofa were sinbinned for repeated professional fouls.

Timoci Seruwalu went back to the top of the Heartland tryscorers list with his seventh and then eighth tries on Saturday.
Timoci Seruwalu went back to the top of the Heartland tryscorers list with his seventh and then eighth tries on Saturday.

It was everything co-coach Jason Hamlin could have hoped for after the disappointments of the last two weeks.

"We're trying to emphasise the fact of more communication out wide," he said.

"Craig made a lot of difference there. Young Cody stepped up to the mark, didn't over-play his hand. He did what we asked him to.

"It was a better attitude with training - not that it's been poor, but they're pouring the acid on themselves."

Hamlin still needs the team to tighten up the ball handling, as he felt they tended to drift side-to-side too much, rather than being direct.

"Use the skill set to put people away, in the second half we got 4-5 tries that way."

Hamlin praised Harding in his starting XV comeback and Lane on his debut - being a true local product who came all the way through the various Wanganui representative grades.

And there were not enough superlatives to describe watching Crowley in full flight.

"If he can keep himself injury free and on the paddock, he's an asset for us."

Initially, Clare and King Country first-five Kieron Rollinson traded penalties, with Wanganui dominating territory in the opening quarter but being held up at the tryline or missing half chances.

Clare broke the dam when he found Crowley with an inside ball after Hemi's long pass, with the veteran winger backing his pace to beat two tacklers to the line.

Clare then produced a brilliant underhand flick to put Harding away, feeding Sawailau who was just snagged by the jersey but found Middleton backing up for a great team try.

Feeling it now, Clare spotted another gap and sliced through to put Horrocks under the bar, and the centre remained in a selfless mood as after Seruwalu leapt up to snatch an intercept and passed it off the ground, Clare jogged to the posts but turned and waited to hand Baldwin a gift-wrapped try.

Double tryscoring winger Cameron Crowley was back to his best in the record 77-point winning margin over King Country at Cooks Gardens on Saturday.
Double tryscoring winger Cameron Crowley was back to his best in the record 77-point winning margin over King Country at Cooks Gardens on Saturday.

Rattled, King Country kept dropping their own ball or giving away penalties and from a 5m scrum, Horrocks faked going left but Hudson took the ball off the back to feed Seruwalu to run back through three tacklers and score for 36-3 at halftime.

King Country then spilled the ball from an attacking scrum and Hemi snatched it and was gone 70m back up field, then Horrocks caught the blindside defence asleep after solid runs from Hudson and Middleton, feeding Sawailau to run with ball in one hand beside the posts.

It was a double blow when Wanganui raised their half-century, as they had referee's advantage when Seruwalu put Crowley into the gap for Sawailau to score in the corner, with Cottrell signalling the try then running back to show Williams a yellow card.

The flood gates were open as reserve flanker Jamie Hughes supported his backs to penetrate the defence and score, then Harding ranged wide to find Seruwalu, who brushed off a helpless tackler and dived into the corner for 58-3.

After leadup from Hudson and Crowley, reserve halfback Tom Stewart found Hughes on the cut-back to dive over, and then after Alofa joined Williams on the sideline, Wanganui again swept into King Country's dangerzone and Hemi got the ruck pass to find no-one in front of him and just cruised over.

Hudson ranged wide and his pass was looking loose until Cameron just glided forward to secure it and offload in the last tackle for Harding to score, before Wanganui broke their biggest-ever winning margin for Heartland after reserve second-five Dane Whale ran through the gap and found Crowley to burn off his chaser and score in the corner.

Wanganui 80 (Jona Sawailau 2, Timoci Seruwalu 2, Cody Hemi 2, Cameron Crowley 2, Angus Middleton, Lindsay Horrocks, Cole Baldwin, Jamie Hughes, Nick Harding tries; Craig Clare pen, 4 con; Harding 2 con) bt King Country 3 (Kieron Rollinson pen). HT: 36-3.

Co-captains Cole Baldwin and Roman Tutauha lift the 'Pinetree Log' at the conclusion of the game.
Co-captains Cole Baldwin and Roman Tutauha lift the 'Pinetree Log' at the conclusion of the game.