If you had not followed Taranaki's 2010 ITM Cup campaign you could very easily understand the size and nature of the loss to Wellington on Saturday.
Taranaki, we were told and hoped, was a much better lineup. With eight wins from 11 games, even if there was some scratchiness in some of those victories, did suggest that Taranaki should be a challenge for Wellington. Some know-alls even suggested that the pressure was on Wellington.
But in the end, after a solid first 35 minutes, Taranaki fell like a pack of cards, just as they have in their previous encounters at the Cake Tin. The statistics now read six appearances, six hidings.
Just as Hawke's Bay did in the first half, Wellington cut Taranaki apart and cruelly exposed the tackling of Taranaki under pressure. Tackling one-off runners is one thing, tackling players who are doing more than crashing and bashing is completely different.
The biggest sin came just short of half-time, with the score only 10-8 to Wellington.
Taranaki had the ability to clear from its own 22, but knocked on.
Then Alby Mathewson ran beyond Jarrad Hoeata - who's All Black aspirations undoubtedly went with the miss - and easily stood up Scott Ireland to score.
The Wellington bogey had reappeared and Taranaki's dream of being a genuine title contender remained nothing more than the impossible dream.
Taranaki can regroup, but now results need to go the province's way to make the top four cut.
The biggest problem this group of players face is that they keep making the same mistakes. Until the players, individually and as a unit, learn from the mistakes, Taranaki will continue to be inconsistent.
The new broom has come through this year and done some good things. For the first time since the competition expanded to 14 teams in 2006, this will be the first time Taranaki has finished in the top half of the field.
Team protocol has also been enhanced, and when breached, punishment has been kept under wraps. That is fine, but where the management have been misguided this year is offering other reasons for demotions. Taranaki is too small for that, the true story always gets out. Respect is a mutual matter.
**What did you think of Taranaki's performance? Post your comments below.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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