Northland Taniwha looked like a bunch of schmucks drawn from the local pub and chucked out to play Otago without a single word of advice.
The 30-7 bonus point win for Otago in the Mitre 10 Cup match at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday night means Northland's campaign could hang by a thread if they wither against North Harbour at home on Saturday.
Many pundits would have thought the Cambridge blue would crack open "the glasshouse" in North Dunedin on Friday night without Josh Ioane and Vilimoni Koroi to contend with but the home side had an arsenal of weapons right across the battlefield.
At 35 but weighing 130kg, Southland centurion Jamie Mackintosh was propping for Otago this time and gave Northland a friendly reminder that he won the Stags the Ranfurly Shield twice at his peak.
Bullocking Liam Coltman, whose charging runs wouldn't have looked out of place on the cobbled lanes of Pamplona, was hard, uncompromising, and had a heart of oak.
The former All Black was more than a handful while Josh Hohneck revelled in diving at the feet of rampaging front-row forwards and scavenging at breakdowns like a crazed wildebeest at a waterhole.
It encapsulates Otago's desire to settle for no less than a copybook while defending their line. Even man-of-the-match Jona Nareki — a short man — was quite capable of leaping like a salmon to tackle an opponent on the upper body.
His tackle on Northland centre Kalani Going, who only had to offload to an unmarked Jone Macilai on the wing to score, was a gem.
How sad captain Jordan Olsen had to endure a horror night on his 50th game for the Cambridge blue.
The elementary stuff deserted them. This wasn't a standard away defeat for Northland.
The team is much better than that. There were some strangely promising and uplifting attacking moments from them that showed the potential that lies within.
"It's a work-on for us for the whole competition and, when we play to our potential, we can do anything. We just need to get into the mindset of being able to be as best as we possibly can," was all the skipper could offer post-match.
If someone had been able to collect the vocal venom of the handful of Taniwha fans at the ground, it would have powered the stadium lights.
No one will be able to stomach too many more nights like this and be willing to keep turning up to cheer on the Taniwha.
Otago earned their points all right. They defended with structure and passion, offloaded superbly at times, ran neat lines, kicked well and slowed Northland's possession at the breakdown.
But they were able to look better than they really are because the visitors were awful.
It took Northland an hour, if you don't mind, to get on the scoreboard through Rene Ranger and something clicked within the team at that point, albeit briefly.
They suddenly began dominating the game, the forwards ran harder, bashed over the gain line and cleaned out a smidgen better but unforced errors put paid to those efforts.
Throw into the mix ill-discipline and a spectacular brain fade by Pisi Leilua when he opted for a quick throw inside the Northland half that failed to go 5m.
Otago exploited the opportunity and opted for a lineout and left the rest for Mackintosh and Coltman to take care of. They love a driving maul. It's such a good weapon for them and they used it cleverly.
Ranger's decision at times to rely on brawn to get out of his 22 first reeked of stupidity.
Instead of hoofing the darned thing down the field, he tried to play with it, dance around and make life way harder than it should have been. But Northland didn't show any capacity to learn.
Nor did they show any capacity to cut out the poor discipline, no matter how many times first five Jono Hickey punished them with his unerring boot.
Playing in place of Ioane, the diminutive No 10 showed his nifty goalkicking and touch finders. His opposite, Dan Hawkins, struggled to get his team in the right areas of the field as most of his kicks for touch barely travelled 30 metres.
Halfback Sam Nock or fullback Scott Gregory, with a booming left boot, would have provided better clearance kicking options.
Northland had made six handling errors to Otago's one on the half-hour mark.
At one point in the second half, Northland spent nearly eight minutes in the Otago 22m zone but had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.
Just when Northland began stringing together a few passes after Ranger's try, Otago wrestled the ascendancy back and turned defence into attack.
It all made for a horribly painful evening for Northland, just a week after losing the Ranfurly Shield challenge to the Magpies in Hawke's Bay.