The Wanganui Samoa side was brought back down to earth hard in a 60-10 hammering by Hawke's Bay Samoa in the High Commissioners Cup game in Napier.
Coach Ace Malo was able to take a full squad to 22 to the Tech Rugby Club grounds, with virtually the same starting lineup that had thrashed Horowhenua Kapiti Samoa 66-0, aside from fullback Junior Ainea who had a sore shoulder.
However Hawke's Bay, who are the defending champions, apparently train together every day during the week, compared to Wanganui who just have the traditional two sessions.
"They were really good at phases and around the ruck area, good ball in there," said Malo.
"They were a well organised, training every day. Fitness let us down.
"I might have to put my boots back on."
First-five Lote Tauialoto scored all of Wanganui's points, converting his own try and adding a penalty, and was strong in the first half until Malo had a sub him when the pace of the second half began to tell.
Winger Clive (CJ) Stowers had another strong match with a couple of good runs on his rare opportunities.
Wanganui will now be in must-win mode to make the Cup final when they play Manawatu Samoa in Palmerston North on Saturday.
They will have to do without standout midfielder Meki Magele, who is returning to Samoa, as have several of his fellow Pirates club members in the past two months.
* * * * *
It was not such a good start to the preseason for the Air Chathams Wanganui Under 18 squad with a 34-12 loss to Horowhenua Kapiti U18.
The match was played on Spriggens Park so all three Wanganui representative sides who had matches that day - Heartland, Development and Under 18 - could have a fresh ground underneath them, rather than being cut up from an earlier fixture following the heavy midweek rain.
Wanganui will next play Thames Valley U18 in a night game at Cooks Gardens on September 5.
* * * * *
The Heartland Hurricanes Under 20's got to experience rugby at a whole new level in the Central Regional Shield tournament after a 66-26 battering by the Wellington Under 19's in Palmerston North on Saturday.
After a 12-3 win over Manawatu U19 in very muddy conditions at Arena Manawatu the previous weekend, this game against the competition's heavyweights was played on a much firmer track at Massey University.
"They were fast, but the Heartland boys stuck with them first half," said Whanganui-based manager Darrell Robinson.
However, four rapid fire tries after the break blew the scoreline out.
"Wellington lifted a little bit, fitness wise, they're a pretty big pack. Wore our boys down," said Robinson.
To their credit, the Heartland Hurricanes never quit trying and scored the game's last two tries.
Their Horowhenua-Kapiti first-five Sean Pape scored a double, while Poverty Bay-based captain Gabe Tekani and Horowhenua-Kapiti winger Aholelei Katoa got the other tries.
Of the Whanganui contingent, openside flanker Jason Myers was outstanding, while Shaquille Waara impressed when he came on at fullback in the second half.
"He ran the ball up pretty well, good defence," said Robinson.
Kohlt Covney and Desmond Tyrell started at hooker and second-five respectively, with Tyrell playing the full match, while his Whanganui Metro team mate Ezekiel Anderson got to make his debut off the bench.
The team will now finish their campaign against Hawke's Bay U19, who also beat Manawatu U19 on Saturday, with the game likely an away match.