After the euphoric highs of last week's big win, Te Awamutu Sports came crashing to a resounding thud in the Cambridge rain, completely outplayed to the tune of 61 unanswered points against defending champs Hautapu.
The loss drops Te Awamutu from the top four into fifth spot with a round to play, needing a win against Hamilton Old Boys next week, and a loss from Hamilton Marist to sneak into the semis.
The hosts scored early and often and save for a short period in the early stages where Sports were on attack, the first quarter was one-way traffic.
Tries in the third, 16th, 18th and 22nd minute had Sports reeling on their heels, and with the score 0-26 the mountain to climb was getting bigger by the minute.
Sports dug their heels and lifted the defensive intensity from there, but were already playing too much of the game on defence and as the tackle count mounted, so did the pressure and their line finally burst in the closing minutes of the first half. The tired defensive line let in two late tries to trail 0-40 at the half, the game effectively gone.
To Sports' credit, their resolve grew as the rain intensified, and while Hautapu held the lion's share of possession and control of the breakdown, they couldn't break the line as Sports scrambled well.
With the scoreline already out of control, Sports played desperate rugby with the morsels of possession they found but given the driving second-half rain, didn't pay enough respect to the conditions and mistakes piled the pressure on the defensive line, which eventually fractured in the final five minutes.
A pushover scrum was followed by two long-range tries that the tired line couldn't cover, and the demolition was complete at 0-61.
It was a harsh reality check for a young developing side as to how tough this competition is and the level of consistency needed to be a top-four team. However, there were positive notes.
Pivot Dillon Martin continued his form from the last few weeks, pushing Hautapu back into their half early and controlling well in terrible conditions.
Lock Tony Bennett was again strong around the field and set piece while replacement Daniel Fereti injected some much needed aggression into the second half before departing late due to injury.
MVP Points: 3: Dillon Martin, 2: Tony Bennett: 1: Daniel Fereti
Hautapu B v Te Awamutu Sports Development
The Te Awamutu Sports Premier Development side got themselves out to an early lead, but will lament a flat period to start the second half that conceded three tries, narrowly going down to Hautapu 13-17.
The game started perfectly for Te Awamutu when prop Shaun Rumbles dove over in the corner in the opening minutes to take an early 5-0 lead, followed by a Josh Bennett penalty goal in the 12th minute to extend the lead to 8-0, which Sports held until halftime.
But it was a three-try slip in the 61st, 65th and 67th minute that turned that lead into a 8-17 deficit as the game entered the final 10 minutes, where Sports threw everything at the hosts' defensive line, finally being rewarded when hooker Dylan Jeffries crashed over between two tacklers to score, the try unconverted and the score 13-17.
Te Awamutu controlled the possession and territory in that last 10-minute spell, but were guilty of forcing the pace a little too often.
Hautapu played with a little more composure than Sports, denying them their first win of the Premiership round.
Jeffries was impressive from hooker, while midfielder Queyst Michael-Tapu was dangerous in space.
Lock Pierce Te Whaiti was strong with ball in hand and on defence.