Northland can only be thankful that while Manawatu played most of the rugby, their winning margin in the Bunnings Warehouse NPC clash was just 12 points.
Conversely, the Taniwha know they could have got their first win of the season had they played with more flow and potency, tightened up their defence, and used the stiff breeze in the second half to good effect.
Instead, they had long periods when they looked laboured, clunky and reactive in the 31-19 loss at Palmerston North on Saturday.
Northland looked in patches only like the team that took Taranaki to the wires in Whangārei just a week earlier and didn't offer much in either attack or defence, except in the first and the third quarter when they scored two well-worked tries.
The visitors showed flashes of brilliance in the opening quarter despite a yellow card to fullback Noah Cooper for a deliberate knock-on and Manawatu enjoying 83 per cent of territory.
But the opportunities that opened up closed just as quickly as Manawatu forced them to scramble deep in their territory for extended periods of play.
Everything that epitomised Northland's heart-warming performance against the 'Naki — chief among them a herculean defensive effort — deserted them in Palmerston North and that allowed monsters like Tima Fainga'anuku and Samoan international Ed Fidow to convert pressure into points for Manawatu.
Just how good they were in broken play was shown when Fidow, who had no right to score the first try with little to no space on the wing, put on the accelerator and ran over the last Northland defender in a Jonah-Lomu like run to the tryline.
In the end, the contest was won by the cohesion and energy of the Turbos with effective punchy attacking movements, coupled with the speed of the recycling at the breakdown.
Northland wished All Black halfback Aaron Smith was in Townsville to challenge the Springboks rather than getting game time for his province. He was the beating heart of the hosts.
Smith was spot-on at picking which runner to hit and threw passes with a priceless accuracy that allowed receivers to take the ball at speed and carve open the Northland defence.
He reminded everyone why he's been a genuine passing number nine in New Zealand for a long time, with the speed and accuracy of delivery that enabled to play wider and faster.
The Turbos employed a relatively simple gameplan of keeping their attack direct, straight and low risk because there was every chance Northland would give away penalties at the wrong end of the field.
Superboot Brett Cameron kept the scoreboard ticking over with his unerring boot and with used the wind behind their backs in the first spell to good effect— which Northland failed to quite capitalise on after the breather.
For Northland, what needs to come next is an improvement in the accuracy and the duration of that accuracy. They host Waikato at Semenoff Stadium in Whangārei this Friday.
The match was postponed because of the Covid lockdown.