A rampant first half set the Marlborough Red Devils up for a thoroughly convincing 53-0 rout of North Canterbury in a one-sided representative rugby match at Lansdowne Park in Blenheim yesterday.
When half-time mercifully arrived for the visitors they already trailed 0-43 and the way Marlborough had strung together several fine tries, 100 points wasn't out of the question.
However, a combination of over-eagerness, one or two over-playing their hand, handling errors, several substitutions interrupting the flow and a better effort by North Canterbury meant just two more tries were scored after half-time and none in the last 30 minutes.
It was obvious from the start that Marlborough's better conditioned players, many of them striving for ITM Cup selection, were too strong, too skilful and too quick for arguably the poorest North Canterbury team to visit Blenheim.
Tasman Makos selector and assistant coach Leon MacDonald watched the match and would have enjoyed the performance of new recruit Bryce Heem. The strapping New Zealand sevens star, playing at centre, not only scored two tries himself but set up several others with a combination of pace, power and silky skills.
Inside him, veteran Onolevu Temo had an outstanding match, apart from a couple of errors late in the game, as he constantly ripped the flimsy opposition defences to shreds.
Marlborough's forwards set a good platform throughout and in the first half the backs capitalised with plenty of razzle dazzle, the first try in the fifth minute a good example as first-five Daniel Hawkins worked a double-round move to put wing Kieran Hickman in for the first of his three tries.
Heem showed his power and pace shortly afterwards, shrugging off several defenders to touch down. At one stage between the 28th and 33rd minutes, Marlborough rattled on tries to Hawkins, Heem and wing Jake Cresswell as they worked their magic against a defence which was reduced virtually to spectators.
The second half began as the first ended, with two quick tries, Heem laying a try on for Temo then Hickman scoring his third on the back of a Temo bust.
Marlborough continued to dominate and had numerous opportunities to increase their lead, but handling errors and the final pass not finding its mark enabled the visitors to emerge from the match not totally embarrassed.
Marlborough played very well as a team in the first half and individually none were better through the 80 minutes than captain and lock Stu Campbell. The veteran Moutere man did his core job well and carted the ball up with enthusiasm throughout as he led by example.
Fellow lock Dan Crockett impressed and flanker Stu Dalzell was another willing ball carrier.
Halfback Daniel MacDonald delivered first-class service to his backs in an impressive first half before he was replaced by Willie Alaiasa. He was sin-binned for obstruction by referee Dave Woodhouse and from there Marlborough lost their scoring momentum.
Both wing Hickman and Cresswell took their opportunities well, scoring five tries between them as they revelled in the superb service from their destructive midfield. Hickman left the field in the second half with a leg injury.
North Canterbury turned up like duck shooters without any ammunition.
They were simply outclassed all over the park and although getting into promising scoring positions in the second spell, never looked like putting points on the board.
Weather conditions also played a part, Marlborough playing against the strong, cold westerly in the second half which also made goal-kicking difficult for Hawkins, several of his attempts being pushed away late by the wind.
Halfback Tevita Vea played well behind a beaten North Canterbury pack and made a couple of strong runs.
In the forwards, No8 Logan Telfer and prop and captain Ben Frame tried their hearts out.
Marlborough head coach Steve Crockett had mixed reactions afterwards to his team's performance.
"Happy for 40 minutes, second half a little bit disappointing," he said.
"We regrouped at half-time and said we were looking at structure, organise and settle and build again but it didn't happen.
"We showed signs in the early stages of the second half that we could do a bit more but errors, mistakes, silly things."
Yesterday's match was an important part of Marlborough's build-up towards their Seddon Shield defences in August and Crockett said he was pleased with how the new players have contributed and the fact there is strong competition in some positions.
Marlborough's next match is against South Canterbury at Manderville in North Canterbury next Wednesday.
Marlborough 53 (Kieran Hickman 3, Jake Cresswell 2, Bryce Heem 2, Onolevu Temo, Daniel Hawkins tries, Hawkins 4 con)
North Canterbury 0. Half-time: Marlborough 43-0.