It was raining tries on a rainy afternoon as Mid Northern ran up a virtual cricket score against winless Hikurangi in the Tyrepower Premier club rugby competition.
A proud Northland rugby club with a 126-year history, hosts Hikurangi were pummelled 85-10 on Saturday and suffered the ignominy of losing 11 games on the trot— a record in recent years.
Manager Rowan Lawson said the club had struggled with player numbers and a large number of injured players exacerbated the situation in this year's competition.
Seven players were down with concussion, two with dislocated shoulders and others with various injuries meaning Hikurangi were forced to borrow players from their Premier Reserve team.
"You get a player back, then two others are injured and others have work commitments and that's not helping in our quest to put a strong team out there. While the boys are willing, the skill level is just not there," Lawson said.
"You can get disheartened but our focus is on keeping this group tight and enjoying each other's company and we will seriously look at ourselves in the off-season."
Despite the score, Hikurangi were not without their qualities, at times. They played at pace sporadically and with ample heart and there were moments of ball control. But they don't have the quality across the field nor the ability to apply enough pressure to make things feel like they are for real.
Without being able to secure their ball, they couldn't get their attack game going. They couldn't build the phases and control the game when they were turning it over so regularly. And they had real trouble getting out of their own half.
They kicked more than they should have, but frustratingly, the kickers didn't have a great handle on when and where to boot it.
And that's the problem with having Hikurangi in the Premier competition — they kind of drag everyone down to their level. Other teams in the Premier competition don't need to
take them seriously and can come way off the boil mentally.
On one level, Hikurangi are a side to be admired for having the courage to pick themselves up every week and give it all they have got. But the more pressing feeling is Premier club rugby isn't set up to provide weekly trial matches.
The top tier of club rugby anywhere should not have to lower itself to congratulate teams for trying hard or for making up the numbers.
And that's why no one should take any particular joy in the Mid Northern victory - especially not Mid Northern, who may have hoped for a much better contest to test their physicality, cohesion and class.
Mid Northern were full of running, offloading for fun and playing pretty much how they wanted, where they wanted.
But they were able to offload so easily because Hikurangi didn't have the capacity to wrap man and ball.
Mid Northern's set-piece, their lineout and scrum, were fearsome weapons.
With Northland skipper Jordan Olsen hooking the ball, Aidyn Harris working just as hard on the other side of the scrum and a hefty boilerhouse of Tomi Baker and Terepai King adding extra power from the second row, the visitors controlled the rhythm and flow for long periods.
For those who just want to watch a good, intense game of football where the outcome is in doubt, it's plain to see Hikurangi are not up to it. And they are not going to be up to it in the three rounds left to play. That's a solid bet.
In-form Western Sharks lie in wait this weekend and many pundits and fans alike rightly feel that victory for the men from Dargaville this weekend is a foregone conclusion.
In the top of the table clash at the weekend, Old Boys Marist edged Kamo 19-10, Ngati Hine Moerewa overcame a strong challenge from Kerikeri to win 19-15, Hora Hora beat Wellsford 43-32 and the Western Sharks thumped Waipu 69-3.