Having won championships with two Tasman Tanning Premier clubs, former coach Phillip Morris had the mantra there is a XV who starts a match and a XV who finishes it, and they are both equally important.
Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau provided a classic example of this as they took the full effort of their 22 players to put a structure back together and overtake Settlers Honey Ngamatapouri in the second half on Saturday, pulling away to win, 27-13, at the Country Club.
Brimming with confidence, Ngamatapouri opened up like a team that had been scoring 50 points per game, not conceding them, by getting up quickly from their defensive line across from the ruck to cut down Kaierau's options.
Making uncharacteristic handling errors and not offering the necessary protection over the ball at the breakdown, Kaierau gave up plenty of turnovers and the visitors, sensing an ambush, spun the ball immediately or turned the lottery of loose ball into broken field opportunities.
No 8 Josaia Dawai made some key steals, backed by flanker Mairangi Tamehana, prop David Mariner and lock Josefa Tamantyaga.
The wingers, Joeli Suka and especially Emitai Logadraudrau, made multiple long-range runs, only for the key pass to go down when they reached the last cover defender, or else Ngamatapouri would have had five tries instead of the one they got from an early charge-down from Jim Seruwalu.
First five Brook Tremayne was pinpoint with his 40m penalty attempts, ultimately landing 3/4 with his sole miss striking the timber, as the visitors could sense an upset leading 13-5 at halftime.
But having lost hooker Kohlt Coveny to a shoulder injury while key men like lock Josh Lane and the Robinsons – Ethan and Cade – all had to grit their teeth and keep going after getting dinged up, Kaierau adjusted their attacking lines and found their shape.
Veteran Ace Malo coming on for the second half steadied the backline, as Kaierau moved Karl Parker to fullback and went with the youngsters of Dillon Adrole and Ezra Malo in the midfield.
Tau Faalili provided his experience after Coveny's injury, with Joe Edwards shifting from No 8 to hooker and having a strong final 10 minutes.
Kaierau used their scrum to push back Ngamatapouri, taking that penalty option inside the 22m, with Robinson and Ace Malo scoring from close range, and so the home side was annoyed when this advantage was taken away during the last 15 minutes, with golden oldies required, due to the visitors lacking a specialist replacement.
Reserve forwards Josefa Rokotakla and Coultin Wilson proved crucial on cover defence, while double try-scorer Pascoe and teenager Ezra Malo both produced try-saving tackles.
"It could have gone either way with 10 minutes to go, couldn't it?" said Ngamatapouri manager Gerald Pearce.
"We were down here, we had 3-4 chances we didn't quite finish off.
"That was a brilliant move down here [70m run from their 15m], but he was just caught out by one, otherwise it would have been a try.
"We touched the tryline down here, and then twice on the sideline when [Logadraudrau] was away, but we're learning and looking forward to the next two games.
"It didn't help that we didn't have a front-rower spare today, and that told down here."
Kaierau coach Carl Gibson had built up the visitors' chances before the game and was proven correct.
"We have to give credit to Ngamat – they just brought pride, they brought everything to that game, and they just smashed into us.
"We just had to be patient and work our way through so we could get tries on the board and get our structure going to open them up, which comes later in the game.
"Our D-line was good - that was a good try Jim got through a charge-down, but other than that, they didn't quite get there.
"I'm proud of the boys for getting up; they're all looking after each other out there.
"We're going to have to play a huge amount better than that in the next two weeks to stick with those other top two teams, it's a big task."
Kaierau 27 (K Parker 2, A Malo, E Robinson tries; Robinson pen, 2 con) bt Ngamatapouri 13 (J Seruwalu try; B Tremayne 2 pen, con). HT: 13-5 Ngamatapouri.