The dejected face of Sam Nock said it all.
There wasn't much need for an explanation from the stand-in Northland captain after last night's gutting 31-25 loss to Manawatū in Palmerston North. Nock, to his credit, was bluntly honest in his statements after the game, but he couldn't say much more than how the game had a familiar feeling for the boys in blue.
Apart from a necessary win against a hapless Southland in round one, Northland have lost four consecutive games to reach the midway stage of the 2019 Mitre 10 Cup competition. They now sit second-to-last above Southland on the championship table with five rounds to go and the hope of a semifinal slipping away fast.
But there were a number a factors which made last night's loss more painful than the rest. Manawatū had not yet won in 2019 and looked ripe for the picking for a Northland team which had shown so much promise in earlier games.
The statistics from Central Energy Trust Arena paint what will be a very frustrating picture for the Taniwha.
Territory: Northland - 64 per cent, Manawatū - 36 per cent
Possession: Northland - 61 per cent, Manawatū - 39 per cent
Time in opposition 22: Northland - 4m 53s, Manawatū - 2m 38s.
Penalties conceded: Northland - 8, Manawatū - 11
Turnovers conceded: Northland - 11, Manawatū - 14
Statistics do not win games of rugby but when all of the above numbers lean in Northland's favour, it does beg the question; what went wrong?
All signs pointed to a dogged battle even before the first whistle blew. As can be typical for Palmerston North, the weather was wet and windy which made life hard for two teams playing desperately for a win.
That sentiment of desperation was echoed by Manawatū assistant coach Greg Fleming at halftime, as he almost smiled as he tried to evaluate a first half where his team saw less of the ball and more of their own half and were still leading into the second 40.
The first half was a mixed bag for Northland who went down early through a try from Turbos winger Andre Taylor, who must have been a blade of grass away from being out as he crossed over in the right-hand corner after seven minutes.
Last-gasp defence from Turbos captain Jamie Booth denied Northland's Jordan Hyland from scoring shortly after, before Manawatū flyhalf Otere Black managed land a penalty shot skimming atop the crossbar to increase the home side's lead to 10-nil after 22 minutes.
A side which looked disjointed early on soon became one with a spark of life as Northland centre Matt Johnson spun a lovely ball wide to Hyland who went to ground only metres from the Turbo line.
Nock, playing at halfback, spied a gap down the short side and grabbed his team a try which, along with a conversion and penalty shortly after from first five Jack Debreczeni, brought the visitors level.
The Northland resurgence was short-lived however as an extremely flat ball from Black to his fullback Sam Malcolm ultimately saw the Turbos' openside Johnny Galloway score a try before Booth snatched another right on the hooter after a great break from the returning Ngani Laumape.
Down 24-10 and facing a mountain to climb, Northland got stuck into their work and a hard and patient 10 minutes of toil paid off for the Taniwha as they scored through prop Ross Wright after a number of pick and go phases.
A fantastic 45-metre penalty from Debreczeni after 54 minutes brought the score to 24-20 in favour of the hosts. Manawatū came out of sheds poorly with a number of errors which Northland pounced on to close the gap.
But just when Northland looked like their dominance in the game was about to pay off, fate quite literally pulled the rug out from underneath Northland as a favourable bounce from a delightful grubber from Black saw Taniwha fullback Scott Gregory slip and Taylor dived over for his second try.
To their credit, Northland recovered well and after a period of continued pressure, Gregory crossed the line after a carefully lobbed pass from Debreczeni. With the score at 31-25 and seven minutes to go, a converted try was required to save a match which should have been Northland's in the first place.
What followed was perhaps a perfect reflection of the Taniwha season this year.
Northland conceded a penalty through reserve halfback Harrison Levien, who the referee decided had taken out his opposite number too early. This saw Manawatū with an attacking lineout well inside the Northland 22-metre with five minutes to go.
But just when you thought Manawatū had the game sown up, the lineout throw went long and Northland gained possession. The visitors looked to move it through the backline in one of their most enterprising moves of the evening, only for winger Pisi Leilua to knock the ball on as they were moving up field.
The two sides packed down for a scrum, which hadn't been working well for either side last night, but Northland put in a big shove and won the penalty close to halfway. The angle was tight and with a few minutes to go, it was down to Debreczeni to see how close Northland's lineout would be to the Manawatū tryline.
Almost like it was meant to be, Debreczeni nailed the touch-finder which set Northland five metres out and gave them the perfect opportunity to set the drive and rumble over for a try.
Reserve Northland hooker Nick Hyde, who was playing in just his second game for the Taniwha, threw it straight into the hands of a Northland jumper. The only problem was it wasn't straight and Northland hearts broke as Manawatū got the scrum with a minute left.
In what was becoming a thrilling last 10 minutes of rugby, Northland put on another huge scrum and earned a penalty. The rugby gods were seemingly gifting Northland chance after chance to steal the win at the death.
After earning two penalties from the two scrums prior, Northland's main concern would have been what the backline could do with the ball as the last few seconds ticked by.
But it was not to be and Northland hearts were broken yet again when their front row was adjudged to have angled in and they conceded the penalty and the game to boys in green.
For the Manawatū faithful who turned out in awful conditions, it was a triumphant win which will have the Turbos eager for the second half of the season.
For Northland, who now face Canterbury in Whangārei next week, it was more of the same. Good in patches, lacklustre in others and failing to take advantage of the chances they had.