It seems hard to believe but the Bay of Plenty Steamers will look back at the 29-7 loss to Taranaki at Yarrow Stadium tonight as a game they could have won.
The scoreline gives no indication to how the game panned out and was a harsh reality for the Steamers who deserved something out of the match.
The Steamers were looking for their first win over Taranaki since 2006 and back-to-back away wins for the first time since 2008. They had enough territory and possession in that opening stanza to win a dozen games but just could not score any points.
A lack of composure at crucial times cost them several golden chances to put a subdued Taranaki team away.
After five minutes Kelly Haimona kicked out on the full to gift Taranaki field position but a dropped pass by Marty McKenzie saw Chase Tiatia lead a spirited break away from inside his 22 that led to an attacking scrum 5 metres out.
The initial Steamers drive for the line was held up. Taranaki conceded another penalty and defensive scrum but their defence held thanks to a blatant off-side. The Steamers needed to score from the third attacking scrum from the same place but they dropped the ball to come away with nothing after five minutes on attack.
Winger Monty Ioane sparked another Steamers charge, continued with gusto by prop Jeff Thwaites. Chase Tiatia carried on with yet another penalty conceded by Taranaki in their 22.
First-five Haimona was given a chance to open the scoring after 22 minutes but he pushed his kick wide. As so often happens after being under the pump defensively, Taranaki finally got their hands on the ball and immediately were awarded a penalty for offside.
McKenzie raised the flags to give Taranaki a scarcely believable 3-0 lead.
Steamers centre Liam Steele then cut through the defensive line and Tiatia was possibly unlucky to be called for not releasing in the tackle just short of the try line. But another chance had gone begging for the Steamers.
Openside flanker Henry Stowers then let his team down with a reckless, lifting tackle which meant a yellow card and Taranaki with an extra man after 33 minutes.
Declan O'Donnell scored immediately in the right corner to make the Bay pay dearly for the yellow card.
Down 8-0 at the break the Steamers needed a good start but it was the home team who scored first through prop Mitch Graham right under the bar after a storming break from outstanding young halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.
The 15-0 scoreline was not a fair reflection on the play but you must take your chances at this level - and the Steamers had plenty in the opening half.
Coach Clayton McMillan strengthened his team off the bench early on in the second spell with several first choice players joining the fray. The turning point try looked certain to come for the Steamers after 18 phases but yet another unforced error turned the ball over with the line open.
And that was a key moment in the game's momentum after 52 minutes.
On the hour Tiatia saved the Steamers with a top tackle after Johnny Fa'auli looked odds on to score.
With seven minutes left what looked a clear overlap for the Steamers ended up with a try to Taranaki's Manasa Mataele through an intercept.
Te Aute was shifted up to halfback and sparked an attack with a fine break. Taranaki lost Lachlan Boshier to the bin for a professional foul on the line.
In a bizarre symptom of the game's pattern, the Steamers again looked set to score but lost the ball two metres short of the line, and a few exciting seconds later Taranaki scored at the other end.
Elijah Nicholas scored a consolation after the hooter for the Steamers to put an end to a bizarre game of Mitre 10 Cup rugby.
Captain Culum Retallick bemoaned the mistakes his team made in the opening half.
"We didn't have a problem getting down into their 22 but two pick and go's knocked on, pushed off our own ball at a scrum, so we just have to hold onto the ball and build some pressure."
The Steamers have no time to dwell on tonight's loss with Southland in Rotorua on Wednesday night followed by Counties Manukau in Tauranga on Sunday.
Taranaki 29 (Declan O'Donnell, Mitch Graham, Manasa Mataele, Sione Lea tries; Marty McKenzie 3 cons, pen) Bay of Plenty 7 (Elijah Nicholas try; Mike Delany con). Halftime: 8-0 Taranaki