Taranaki saw red after just five minutes and then Canterbury read the run riot act in Christchurch last night.
The Taranaki outfit have deposited a load of Ferdinand BS during the Premiership rounds of the Mitre 10 Cup this season and it was the same at AMI Stadium last night after an early send-off saw them in a world of woe virtually from the get-go and the Cantabs banked a semifinal despite also having a man sent off in the second half.
Canterbury won 41-7 to push their case for a home semifinal but it was all downhill towards relegation to the Championship for Taranaki after their sixth straight loss.
In recent times in games between the two provinces wins have tended to go with the visiting team, most notably last year's Ranfurly Shield win by Taranaki, but not this season.
A difficult task last night became mission impossible early when Taranaki lock Jarrad Hoeata was sent off for throwing a punch.
From there, the home side rolled forward in the six tries to one victory.
But Canterbury were far from clean-skins themselves in an often spiteful encounter.
Replacement Canterbury forward Daniel Lienert-Brown was also given his marching orders after 55 minutes for a headbutt. Lienert-Brown had been the victim of a push in the back but his Liverpool kiss left referee James Doleman with no option but to issue a red card.
Taranaki co-captain Mitchell Crosswell marked his 50th game for the province against Canterbury. With strong family connections he made his first-class debut for Manawatu. He had a season in Japan before joining Taranaki in 2013. The two-time Maori All Black won a national title with Taranaki in 2014.
But this was not a night to savour for Croswell.
After leading 24-0 at halftime, the red and blacks struggled for cohesion early in the second stanza and lost No8 Hugh Renton to the sinbin for 10 minutes as the visitors fought to stem the flow of points.
Taranaki's resolve stiffened in the second 40 and they showed plenty of spirit, particularly when the sides went down to 14 men, but were unable to find their finishing touches.
After three first half tries, Canterbury sealed the game when second-five Sam Beard scored in the 67th minute. Wing Ngane Punivai put the icing on the cake with a five-pointer in the 70th.
Taranaki scored a consolation try in the 78th minute when replacement Jayson Potroz grabbed and intercept and ran 50 metres to score.
Canterbury sealed the result in the 80th minute when centre Braydon Ennor touched down out wide after a suspect looping pass in the midfield.
The race for the premiership finals will head into the final week, with North Harbour comfortably beating Counties Manukau 36-26 in Albany.
The hosts led 17-12 after a tight first half, with both sides trying to play expansive rugby in the sun drenched QBE Stadium.
Harbour then jumped out of the blocks early in the second half with tries to Daniel Hilton Jones and Shaun Stevenson before the 50-minute mark
A penalty try for infringement at scrum time gave the Steelers fans hope, but a late try to flanker Dillon Hunt gave Harbour a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
The win pushes North Harbour into fourth and ahead of Wellington on the premiership ladder, with both sides on 29 points.
Wellington have a tricky game against a desperate Taranaki side next weekend, while North Harbour will play top of the table Auckland in the battle of the bridge next Sunday.
For Counties, they now have to hope Taranaki continue their losing ways, or they have to beat Canterbury in Pukekohe next Saturday to avoid relegation from the premiership. That looks unlikely after yesterday's results.
Canterbury 41 (M. Drummond, C. Garden-Bachop 17, B. Harmon 30, S. Beard 67, N. Punivai 70 tries; J. Potroz 78, B. Ennor 80 tries; B. Cameron 4 con, 1 pen).
Taranaki 7 (J.Potroz try; B Waaka con).
Waikato demolish Northland 71-28 to stay top of Championship ladder
Waikato demolished Northland to take another step towards finishing top of the Championship ladder.
The Mooloos ran a whopping 11 tries past an outmatched Northland on a sunny afternoon in Whangarei, finishing 71-28 winners after rushing out to a 38-7 lead at the half.
Their young playmaking partnership of No 9 Jack Stratton and No 10 Fletcher Smith, in particular, were excellent – their fingers on the pulse throughout, sharing the love among the seven try scorers for Waikato on the day.
After the game, Waikato fullback Matthew Lansdown was as complementary of his forwards as he was of his young backline who had to overcome a late loss of veteran utility back Dwayne Sweeney to injury.
"We've struggled over the last couple years up here and it was a big focus to come up here and bring the form that we had in the last few games and take it to them in this Northland heat," Lansdown said.
"We really rely on our forwards to get us the go-forward, they're muscling it up real well against other teams and they're slowly starting to find their way and gives us boys an easy job to just chuck the ball round out there.
"All credit to Sweeney, he's been playing some good quality [footy] but we've got a few boys that can come in even with the youth that they're at and do the job that he does. We lose a bit of experience but the skill that these young boys have, they can really take it to them as well."
Waikato have set themselves up perfectly for their next game, which is the Ranfurly Shield challenge against an always dangerous Otago side in Hamilton next Saturday.
Later in the day, North Harbour moved into fourth on the Premiership ladder with a convincing win over Counties Manukau at Albany.
The hosts kicked on from a 17-12 halftime lead to win 36-26, putting Harbour on 29 competition points which is level with fifth placed Wellington, with just one round remaining.
Waikato 71 (Bailyn Sullivan 2, Sevu Reece 2, Quinn Tupaea 2, Fletcher Smith, James Tucker, Raniera Takarangi, Pepesana Patafilo tries, pen try, Smith 7 con)
Northland 28 (Rene Ranger, Renata Roberts-Te Nana, Sam Nock, Aorangi Stokes, tries; Jack Debreczeni 4 con)