The over-riding observation from rugby people, both here and abroad, is that Taranaki's victory against Canterbury was an appropriate way to celebrate the province's 125th jubilee.
Of course, it was, but it epitomised more specifically the last 25 years.
It was a day like, so many other big ones in the Union's history in the last 25 years, troubled by inclement weather; or as Sir T. P. McLean described the 1990 loss to Australia, "a dog of a day."
My mind could not help but flick back to that wonderful occasion in 1992 when the amber-and-blacks, again as underdogs, kept Counties scoreless for 80 minutes to claim the second division final 12-0; and the 16-3 win over Waikato to secure a semi final berth in 1998. They were played in awful conditions, but the real supporters turned up and were rewarded ten-fold.
It was those conditions that were heartland-like, circumstances that required players to muscle up, play their guts out, die for their province.
Welcome, James and David.
There have been cries of frustration during the season over the importation of players into the Taranaki side. Have those decisions been justified? We are now at the halfway stage of the ITM Cup and it is almost certain that Taranaki would not be sitting where it is now had the province done it alone and not imported.
The grumbles will be gone if a top seven position is secured, although with the side having an inability to secure bonus points, a further three wins from six games will be required to achieve that.
**What do you think of the new comers? Post your comments below.
So what do we make of the new comers?
It amazes me how professional commentators like Tony Johnson can call Taranaki a bogey team of Auckland. Nothing could be further from the truth. Perhaps that was the case in the late 1990s, but certainly not now.
Such comments are made by people who actually skim the surface and are not true students of the game.
Since Taranaki re-entered the first division in 1986, the old amber and black hoops and Auckland have clashed 24 times. Taranaki have won five of those.
Clearly it is more the case of Auckland being Taranaki's bogey team.
The most galling aspect of the meek surrender yesterday was that this was possibly the poorest Auckland side Taranaki have played over the years. Only Maurice Trapp's inept '98s would compare.
It was the infamous J. J. Stewart who remarked once that Southland and Taranaki will be the last two places in the world where rugby will die.
With their respective rural back drops, and based off a comment passed by a less well-known Irish journalist in June this year about the equivalent of one horse towns, it is not hard to understand why the late Stewart said such a thing.
The outpouring of grief following the Northland demise - while not greeted with much joy from the TRFU and team management did highlight that undying passion in these parts.
Yes, the fans are happier now, although the grumbles about the teams inability to score in the second half remain. Of course it is nicer to have only positive feedback, but negative feedback is also beneficial when it is constructive.
We have all seen that Taranaki have been unable to cross the line in the second half, but neither have the Stags.
How will the old amber and black hoops manage to get up and beat Otago on Thursday night?
That seems to be the more pressing issue, after injuries and exhaustion seem to have riddled the squad, despite the four points being banked from the Bay of Plenty match.
While Laurence Corlett is more of a journeyman, he is an experienced competitor and clearly the No 1 hooker in the province. His broken arm is a big loss.
How will that hole be filled? With great difficulty. It will require the likes of Shane Cleaver, Michael Bent and Craig Clarke to really up the ante. Captain Clarke was one of the more tired players on Friday. This Thursday night he must be fresh and fizzing, because after the Otago game comes a more than useful Auckland side, a confident Counties and a Canterbury side that must surely now have its poor performances behind it.
Therefore, the Otago game on Thursday night, like it or not, falls into the "must-win" category. Without it, the ITM Cup becomes all too difficult.
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