Taranaki have launched into second on the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership ladder, following a 48-17 victory over Hawke's Bay.
Last year's beaten semifinalists look assured for another semifinal berth in 2017, sitting with a comfortable and convincing 5-1 record.
While still four points behind leaders Canterbury, Taranaki are now 12 points ahead of Waikato with four regular season games remaining. One of that quartet - a clash with Tasman next week - could be a strong indicator of which teams can pose a challenge to Canterbury.
We'll learn more about Taranaki then; at least compared to tonight's impressive performance against a disappointing Hawke's Bay.
Taranaki's forward pack were the difference, dominating the Bay up front, especially in the scrums. After being held up on multiple occasions, their early pressure led to Magpies prop Pouri Rakete-Stones being sin-binned for consistent penalties, and Taranaki used that opportunity to strike.
Their overwhelming scrum gave No8 Toa Halafihi the space to barge over for the opening try, before Marty McKenzie charged down a kick and won an 80 metre kick-and-chase to dot down.
Runaway tries provided the contrast to a game which was decided in the trenches, and Ihaia West got in on the attacking initiative with a stunning runaway try.
West, playing at fullback, claimed a bomb in his own half, and after being allowed space to land, found further running room to sprint away from the Taranaki defence in a superb solo effort.
Hawke's Bay were more competitive with their full complement on the park, and dragged the deficit back to four at halftime, but their forwards couldn't keep Taranaki at bay.
A lineout drive saw Ricky Riccitelli burrow over against his former side, before the Bay scrum wilted on their own line again, giving away a penalty try.
Such issues have been a staple of Hawke's Bay's season, with the Magpies now 1-6 after being relegated last season. With just five points from seven games, Hawke's Bay are only saved from the Championship wooden spoon by a woeful Southland squad.
They still had hope for a respectable result, but Taranaki added some attacking flair to their graft up front, with Pita Sowakula and Sean Wainui both finishing off long-range attacks to give Taranaki the cherry on the top of their just desserts.
Hawke's Bay 17 (C. Vaega, I. West, J. Aoake tries; D Snee con)
Taranaki 48 (T. Halafihi, M. McKenzie, R. Riccitelli, P. Sowakula, penalty try, S. Wainui, A. Wyrill tries; McKenzie 3 cons, pen; C.Matoe con).