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What appeared likely to become a hard afternoon at the office turned into a nightmare for Tasman Tanning Premier's two-time defending champions, as their great rivals blew them off Memorial Park on Saturday.
Never has the seven-year East vs West battle for WRFU supremacy had a result this one-sided, as a ruthless Byford's Readimix Taihape started strong, finished strong and dominated everything in between for a 77-7 blowout of Waverley Harvesting Border.
Border had reinforced their depleted lineup from the previous week as playmakers Craig Clare and Lindsay Horrocks returned although, with other absences, they stood at fullback and centre respectively.
It was good to see 2021 Steelform Whanganui loose forward Kieran Hussey again, while the likes of Nick Harding and Semi Vodosese were on the bench in their injury comebacks.
But being back on deck and looking settled are two different things.
With simple kick clearances missing touch, costly turnovers at ruck time, tighthead scrums lost and simply not adjusting to Taihape's attack patterns, Border were all at sea – giving up two tries inside the first 10 minutes and, from there, the home side never looked back.
When Taihape destroyed Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist 81-14 last season, that could somewhat be understood with Marist's young players not yet conditioned to the harsh reality of the intimidating journey to play the 2019 champions at their domain.
But Border knew better; you must contest hard at the breakdown because you cannot give the likes of first five Dane Whale and fullback Tyler Rogers-Holden the opportunity to take over the match.
Playing behind a dominant pack, Whale and Rogers-Holden harnessed the conditions expertly to pin Border in their own half.
Bone-rattling tackles and speed off the mark with ball in hand saw Taihape playing at their absolute zenith – a delight for coach Tom Wells and his staff.
A parochial South Taranaki fan might want to point out Taihape have picked up a handful of Whanganui representative players to bolster their line-up, but it was the promising younger players who have not yet made Heartland level who shone brightest.
Border could not get a defensive read on elusive winger Tiari Mumby, who sprinted or slipped his way through for a hat-trick of tries, while Whale found centre Tim Goodwin with long passes and the former Kaierau understudy cut loose – scoring and setting up multiple five-pointers.
Flanker Lennox Shanks, fired up by his roaring bench, was outstanding in cover defence and on the carry, while prop Issac Roth made a big impact.
Former Ruapehu front-rowers Roman Tutauha and Gabriel Hakaraia continued their try-scoring ways, as Taihape made a mess of Border's scrum in complete dominance of the set-piece.
"We just hit our straps today, we really did. Could have been down 7-0 in the first 20 seconds with a charge down, but other than that the first half was near-on flawless," said a grinning Wells.
"You've got to give the boys heaps of credit for playing our systems and being accurate in the process too.
"Timmy Goodwin was phenomenal at centre today. Tiari's been one of our best players every week, and that's probably the best game I've ever seen Dane Whale play.
"It call comes from behind a pack that does their job and goes forward, so everyone put their hand up today."
Despite continuing their Grand Hotel Challenge Shield reign and being clear favourites for the Paul Mitchell Cup as first round table leaders, Wells agreed they could not get giddy about a 70-point rout and putting 50 points on Border in one half of rugby.
"If you're not going forward every week, everyone's not doing their job.
"There will be work-ons today, for sure, and we'll pick them up and pinpoint them, and hopefully we'll come out better next week."
After he came off the bench for his first game in a couple of seasons, much of Border coach Cole Baldwin's thoughts on his team's efforts were not suitable for print.
"We've got no excuses for that sort of performance. Taihape were good, and we just weren't good enough.
"So we got to take it on the chin and move on and get better in two weeks' time.
"They don't have a choice, mate. If they don't start sorting their stuff out, we've only got four more games, and that would be us done.
"It's the hard reality of a small competition. You can see Taihape's been putting the work in - it's paying off for them.
"Good on them for the result, and hopefully we'll be better next time we see them."
Taihape 77 (T Mumby 3, R Tutauha 2,T Rogers-Holden 2, R Campbell-Simon 2, R Karatau, T Goodwin, G Hakaraia; D Whale pen, 7 con) bt Border 7 (R Tikoisolomone try; C Clare con). HT: 27-7.