If Steelform Wanganui move like leopards on a dry track then just like a feline they find water and mud against their nature - following a scrappy 25-14 win over cellar-dwellers Poverty Bay at Cooks Gardens on Saturday.
Missing an important bonus point heading into the fortnight of games in Canterbury, Wanganui with their backup players who were given a trot to start the match were solid in the opening quarter, before their boots cut a sodden pitch to pieces.
For a lesser quality side, Poverty Bay used their wind advantage to the best effect with fullback Isola Vuki and first-five Kelvin Smith putting some good kicks into both corners, while Wanganui tried to keep ball in hand or risked attacking kicks from halfway, which would put them back when the visitors secured them.
After getting a well worked try and having the better of territory in the first 20 minutes, the errors and offside penalties began creeping in, as Poverty Bay scored the first of their two tries from poor Wanganui passes and should have had more points except they missed several golden penalty chances - ultimately using four goal kickers in the match.
Wanganui reasserted themselves after halftime with two well taken tries from a buildup of pressure, while putting on their regular starters, but again let themselves down after another wayward pass let Poverty Bay score in easy conversion range.
The final quarter was dissappointing as Wanganui were desperate for a bonus point and pushed passes or lost the soapy ball coming into contact - far from the deft handling seen a fortnight ago against Wairarapa Bush.
For the player report cards, it was a mixed bag from the halfbacks.
In his starting debut, Tom Stewart was going to be kept very busy on a muddy day and some of his grubber kicks were easily picked off, although with the wind behind him he was beginning to look more assured and his final play was a beautiful flick pass for reserve prop Gabriel Hakaraia to get low and score under the posts.
Lindsay Horrocks tried to up the tempo to force a fourth try but was out-of-sync with his slowed pass receivers as the field bogged up, as overall Wanganui were far too loose with their offloads.
Import centre Jona Sawailau and winger Bruno Tuivai looked to get involved early, as they along with teenaged fullback Cody Hemi ran back Poverty Bay's clearences, and although second-five Timoci Seruwalu was a handful with every touch, the backline could not get their regular traction while the visitors were brave tacklers.
Flanker Angus Middleton had a daunting task of having to do the scourging work of a Fraser Hammond or Peter Rowe, and got more assured in the second stanza of his 80 minute effort.
Most pleasing was the form of lock Campbell Hart, who did not look like he had only played 50 minutes in three months, with a safe pair of hands at the back of the lineout and creating several attacking opportunities on the fringes.
Both first-five Craig Clare and prop Hamish Mellow came out looking sore after some tough contact.
Co-coach Jason Hamlin had hoped for better, stating once again the team had reverted to type instead of playing how they had trained.
The understudies had done alright, but were party to the same mistakes as the senior squad members.
"Our execution was poor today," Hamlin said.
"I thought we were a bit lateral, weren't direct enough.
"Once or twice, we released and played the way we wanted too.
"We can say about the weather, but it's our ability to control that."
Captaining the team in his 98th match, hooker Cole Baldwin's hope is Timaru turns on a fine afternoon next Saturday for the vital clash with contenders South Canterbury.
"We did get the win, but we know there's still a lot of things we need to improve.
"Need better patience instead of trying to push those passes, that's where those mistakes came from.
"If we get another wet track we have to learn to adapt to those conditions better than we have in the last two weeks."
Wanganui started well while the field was still firm - winning the territory kicking duel and opening the scoring when Seruwalu put Tuivai clear and Hart transfered the ball wide to Clare, who showed good toe to slide in at the corner.
Getting a penalty in front for offside, Clare added three points for 8-0 after 23 minutes.
However, his risky wide pass inside Wanganui's 22m allowed Poverty Bay winger Andrew Tauatelavu to dash off under the posts and undid a lot of the good defence on the Wanganui line.
Vuki took over the kicking for Smith but neither of them could connect on three penalty attempts, otherwise the visitors would have led at halftime.
A good Stewart kick to the corner put Wanganui on attack early in the second half with Clare getting another penalty opportunity, then six minutes later after a pair of lineouts in the corner, Wanganui pounded the line and Stewart's inside ball was taken by Hakaraia with perfect body position for 18-7.
The bench emptied to bring on fresh legs and Middleton stole a Poverty Bay lineout ball to put his team back on attack and following a series of hitups, Sawailau shrugged off a high tackle and wrenched his way over for 25-7 in the 64th minute.
Most expected Poverty Bay to fade as they had in previous games, but a looping pass by Tremaine Gilbert off the back of a Wanganui scrum was hacked through by reserve back Jack Holmes, who showed good control to regather and dive over beside the posts.
The less said about the final minutes the better as Wanganui pushed passes and took chances but could not get in position for a bonus point score.
Wanganui 25 (Craig Clare, Gabriel Hakaraia, Jona Sawailau tries; Clare 2 pen, 2 con) bt Poverty Bay 14 (Andrew Tauatelavu, Jake Holmes tries; Isola Vuki con, Tauatelavu con). HT: 8-7.