The Wanganui Toyota Development XV have locked away the RDO Shield with one game remaining after an 85-21 hammering off an understrength Horowhenua-Kapiti Development at Spriggens Park on Saturday.
The first leg of two matches with the same team to finish off the competition, the Wanganui team and especially their Heartland Championship squad players will be hoping for slightly tougher opposition in Levin this week, after the visitors did not travel north with a full squad.
"They were struggling for numbers, had 13 to start, and a couple of their Under 19's showed up to make up the numbers," said Wanganui coach Kim McNaught.
"Their manager told me they weren't allowed any of their Heartland players."
The top Horowhenua Kapiti squad had travelled north to Te Kuiti to defeat King Country that afternoon.
Wanganui raced away to a 56-14 lead at halftime, raising the prospect of emulating the 108-5 massacre between these same two teams at Spriggens Park in 2016.
"We were trying to play structure, but the game was pretty free-flowing," said McNaught.
"Their defence was pretty poor for a while, we were scoring from the third-fourth phase."
The third quarter of the game saw the visitors stop the rot, at least temporarily, scoring a try of their own and holding Wanganui up, until the floodgates opened again in the last ten minutes.
Having come back from the Heartland reserves bench, winger Karl Pascoe scored a hat trick of tries, while midfielder Josaia Bogileka got a double on his Marist club's ground.
Lock Jack Hodges and winger Pene Vui also got multiple tries, while the team got strong service from their other Heartland regulars like loose forwards Angus Middleton, Chris Breuer and try-scorer Joe Edwards.
Wanganui's RDO Shield campaign has involved playing both the Wairarapa-Bush and Horowhenua Kapiti development squads twice, after Wellington Maori Development withdrew from the competition.