Manawatu Mustangs coach Haze Reweti is putting his hand up that he may need to change approach after his side was run down in the last minute of play for a 24-22 loss to the Taranaki Sharks on Saturday.
Playing their third NZRL North Island match in Waitara, the Mustangs with their contingent of Whanganui Boxon players made a strong start to the game with the wind behind them.
But once again, they were overtaken right at the finishline, as the Sharks got a six-pointer to create an identical result to the late game 24-22 defeat to the Northland Swords in Palmerston North a fortnight ago.
"They kicked the goal to win it, and the hooter went off," said Reweti.
"It's the story of our year.
"Taranaki just played like they wanted it a bit more."
The Mustangs had to play the last 30 minutes against Northland without an interchange bench due to injuries, with winger Leonard Matapuku (shoulder) and Reweti himself (hamstring) therefore ruled out of the Taranaki match.
The team was also without their Boxon halfback Bernard Matthews, so clubmate and NZ Resident Under 18's player Brooklyn Herewini came into the starting lineup as part of a new-look halves combination.
"A bit of a reshuffle, but they still did the job," said Reweti.
Young Boxon winger Kayin Katene retained his spot, as did regular forwards Woody Martin and Gordon Karaitiana, with the captain Martin again leading by example.
"He's always solid on defence, he was great on the weekend," said Reweti.
Other standouts on the day from the Manawatu-based players were Karaitiana's fellow prop Taumutu Nohotima, while midfielder Patrick Hiscox scored two tries as part of a strong running game.
Josh Kerr moved from the second row to centre and likewise made big carries, getting his team out of trouble on a number of occasions.
But once again, the match was taken away from them at the last gasp, as happened with Northland, while the week before against the Wellington Orcas, the Mustangs were deadlocked 22-all in the second half before the Orcas pulled away for a 36-22 win.
"We've just got to work on grinding out our wins and finishing over the top of teams," said Reweti.
The coach did not want to use the excuse that the Mustangs players all had to come out of club union this season because neither the Manawatu RL or Taranaki RL were able to organise full adult club competitions.
The victorious Sharks were in the same boat.
"I think we've under-performed," said Reweti.
"I have to look at what I'm doing because we have the team. Be better at my job.
"Hopefully this weekend we'll get the win and finish on a high."
The Mustangs will make their longest trip of the season up to Tauranga to play Coastline.
"We're both in the same position – fishing for our first win – and they played pretty well with Wellington [38-14] on the weekend."