The ACT Brumbies came out swinging in New Zealand. The problem was they only landed blows in the first half of a 35-point rout against the Wellington Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes turned on a second-half attacking masterclass to score 42 unanswered points in a 56-21 thumping of the Brumbies in Napier on Friday night.
It was a bitter pill to swallow after the Brumbies showed their attacking brilliance in a three-try spree in seven minutes in the first half before they had just 25 per cent possession after the break.
A likely medial ligament injury to prop Scott Sio was salt in the wounds and the Brumbies would have been left fuming at referee Brendon Pickerill after some game-changing calls.
The turning point came in the opening minutes of the second half when Brumbies flyhalf Wharenui Hawera was sent to the sin bin for a cynical breakdown penalty.
But the Brumbies should never have been in that situation after Pickerill refused to acknowledge an offside call from one of his assistants that would have given the visitor's the ball.
Pickerill's poor communication with the assistants was compounded by the Hurricanes' skill as they rumbled into the second half and stole the lead while Hawera was off the field.
The reality was the Brumbies had no one to blame but themselves after falling off tackles and failing to stabilise the game when they had a chance.
And when the Hurricanes got a sniff, they were ruthless and exposed the Brumbies as the visitors chanced their arm to chase the margin.
"You can't play 40 minutes of good footy and that's it," Hawera said.
"It probably didn't help with me getting a yellow card so that was pretty disappointing. We did some good things but there were a lot of bad things we need to improve.
"You can't play 40 minutes against a side like the Hurricanes so that's something we're going to have to fix."
The margin really blew out as All Blacks flyhalf Beauden Barrett pulled the strings and continued his world-class form as the best attacking playmaker in Super Rugby.
The result extended the Brumbies' losing streak in New Zealand to eight games and the Australian conference is now wide open halfway through the season.
"We only had 25 per cent of the ball and 20 per cent of the territory ... with [Hawera] in the sin bin that changed things," said Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham.
"Defensively we made errors in the backs. It's hard to not say something about the referee. There were a number of decisions that changed the momentum of the game.
"I thought our energy was good and started the game well, but we just couldn't get our hands on it after the break. The game just slipped away from us."
The Brumbies will sweat on scan results on Sio's knee, but he is likely facing a stint on the sideline after lasting just 11 minutes before being forced to leave the field.
The Brumbies will return to Canberra on Saturday still licking their wounds after one of the biggest losses in recent years.
The 56-point scored by the Hurricanes was the equal most points the Brumbies had conceded in Super Rugby history, equalling the record set in 2009.
The Brumbies were given a licence to attack and they hit their groove despite conceding the first two tries of hte game.
Tevita Kuridrani and Sam Carter got over the line to level the score before scrumhalf Joe Powell was on the end of one of the tries of the season in a scintillating attacking raid.
The Brumbies ran from almost on their own line, threw the ball through 11 sets of hands with five one-handed passes to send Powell over in a 99 metre effort.
It was the Brumbies' third try in seven minutes and they had the Hurricanes on the rope. But half-time ruined everything.
Hawera was given a yellow card, Vince Aso scored a hat-trick and the Hurricanes ran in eight tries to three in a demolition job.
The silver lining for the Brumbies was that they showed glimpses of attacking brilliance, but it was a brief resistance as they ran out of gas in the high-octane contest.
The killer blow came when Hawera tried a chip kick inside the Brumbies' 22 metres, but it was charged down and Callum Gibbons pounced to score another try.
"When it got to 40 points we tried to chase the game and guys were doing things they don't normally do," Larkham said.
"That's the composure of a good side ... if you're behind by 21 points you hang with it. We had a chance to consolidate with about 15 minutes to go and we missed an opportunity there.
"The intent was there with attack in the first half and defence as well. We stopped a number of their raids through good defence. But the edge defence, especially from set piece or multi-phase, was not up to standard."
Barrett was outstanding with minimal chances, slicing the Brumbies open whenever he got the tiniest of opportunities.
His pinpoint cross-field kicks resulted in four tries and the Hurricanes did it with ease at the end and showed the Brumbies how a deft kick should be executed.
AT A GLANCE
WELLINGTON HURRICANES 56 (Vince Aso 3, Callum Gibbons 2, Cory Janes, Mark Abbott, Ngani Laumape tries; Jordie Barrett 7, Otere Black conversions) bt ACT BRUMBIES 21 (Tevita Kuridrani, Sam Carter, Joe Powell tries; Wharenui Hawera 3 conversions) at McLean Park, Napier, on Friday night. Referee: Brendon Pickerill.