OPINION: It took 20 minutes to walk the length of the Legends Lounge early Saturday evening.
It's often a good exercise to gauge the mood of those who take a particularly keen interest in the fortunes of Taranaki rugby.
If you manage the walk without getting your arm pulled or a finger or two pointed into your chest, then things are usually going well.
The time it took to walk roughly 120m clearly showed things are not right.
The natives are restless, the sponsors grumpy and some of the old timers, well they're just plain angry.
If you were putting a positive spin on things, you could at least say people still care.
Unfortunately, the only spin I saw of note was the dozens of spectators standing up and turning their heads in the opposite direction as they walked out of the Noel and Melva Yarrow stand with 17 minutes to go against Auckland.
I've been a regular observer at the ground for more than 30 years and it's hard to recall ever seeing people leave so early.
Maybe it's because expectations are high, hence the disappointment is greater, or maybe people can not understand how a side that has finished in the top four for the past two seasons can leak more than 50 points to Auckland, a side that has just as many inexperienced players.
You have to go back to 2008 for the last time Taranaki conceded half a century of points over an 80-minute period. They've played 65 games since that loss to Wellington, probably put poorer sides out yet they summoned enough desperation not to let the opposition score 50 points.
To have it happen on old timers' day was probably equally cruel for new captain Kane Barrett, who was staying positive after the hefty defeat.
That's the opposite of the majority of people offering advice in the Legends Lounge.
Whether they conveyed their feelings equally as strongly to the coaching or playing staff is questionable and the public's response will be seen on Wednesday night when a Ranfurly Shield-less Hawke's Bay visit.
One thing is for sure, a lot of the 6850 who turned up to support the side at the weekend will not be back.
Criticising the team is the easy part, though, finding solutions is a bit harder.
When a team is not going well generally coaches do two things.
They can strip everything back and focus on the basics or be daring and take a punt on a few selections, drop players who are underperforming, even though their reputations are far greater than those who are potentially coming in.
Veteran Taranaki coach Colin Cooper has a reputation for being conservative and backing his players longer than many fans certainly do, but time must be running out for a few men whose play has become far too predictable and who are not having the required impact.
The ball is very much in the players' hands right now because their season rests on the next two games, with a Ranfurly Shield challenge to follow four days after Hawke's Bay's visit.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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