The Bay of Plenty Steamers have five days to rebuild their confidence and prepare for a Ranfurly Shield challenge, after being soundly beaten by reigning ITM Cup champions Taranaki, 32-9.
The Steamers were chasing their fourth win of the season at the Rotorua International Stadium on Saturday but could not keep up with Taranaki, who turned on a fine second-half performance.
The Steamers now need to re-group ahead of another tough assignment on Saturday against Hawke's Bay, which doubles as a Ranfurly Shield challenge.
Bay coach Clayton McMillan said his side had chances to score at the weekend but were not as clinical as they needed to be against a top side like Taranaki.
"I know our guys will just be disappointed because we had an opportunity there and had them under a little bit of pressure, but just weren't able to sustain that for a long enough period of time to put points on the board.
"And every opportunity they got they were a lot more urgent and clinical than us and hence the result."
Despite the result, the Steamers now have a record of three wins and three losses this year which is a big improvement on their past two seasons. They are also still on track to make the playoffs in the ITM Cup Championship.
McMillan said with the Ranfurly Shield challenge on the horizon the boys had plenty of motivation this week to train hard.
"Not many people get that opportunity [to play for the shield] and the boys get that opportunity next week to go down to Hawke's Bay and see if we can lift it," he said.
The Steamers were missing a handful of their first team players in Rotorua but gave Taranaki a good run in the first half, leading 6-3 at the break.
Taranaki, who struggled with ill-discipline in the first 40 minutes, took over in the second period scoring four unanswered tries to win the contest.
Fullback Kurt Baker and centre Seta Tamanivalu showed their class crossing for tries.
Meanwhile, the All Blacks Sevens defeated the Australian Sevens team 31-12 in the curtain raiser, with Rotorua schoolboy Isaac Te Aute playing the second half.
-Bay of Plenty Steamers 9 (Dan Hollinshead 3 pen) Taranaki 32 (Berny Hall, Toa Halafihi, Kurt Baker, Seta Tamanivalu tries; Codey Rei 3 con, 2 pen) HT: 6-3.