Counites Manukau's tough introduction to life in the ITM Cup Premiership continued with a 40-20 defeat to Tasman on Friday.
Having finished top of the Championship last season, the Pukekohe outfit were hopeful of making their mark once more this term, but two heavy defeats at home have already halted their momentum.
Championship side Tasman were the team to do the damage this time around, adding to the defeat inflicted by Wellington in Round One.
There wasn't much quality on offer early in the encounter, with both sides coughing up the ball on a number of occasions despite the conditions being near-perfect.
Tasman eventually opened the scoring courtesy of a penalty from debutant full-back Marty Banks after a high shot on Hayden Cripps.
Having lost Baden Kerr to injury just before kick-off, the Steelers were without a first-choice kicker and it showed as they turned down a number of kickable penalties, preferring to go for touch.
After a few failed attempts, they were rewarded for their endeavour through a try from Augustine Pulu on the 20 minute mark. The score was built on the back of a strong line-out drive, with a number of backs lending a hand before Pulu dived over as the maul steamed over the line. Ahsee Tuala added the extras.
Banks added three more after hitting the post with a penalty attempt, his effort rebounding into play where it was knocked on by Fritz Lee only for one of his team-mates to catch it from an off-side position. Banks would make no mistake with the second chance from right out in front.
Counties continued to deal in tries, with two Chiefs players combining for the home side's second five-pointer.
From a static maul on the Tasman 22, Pulu ran the ball up to the line, drawing the defence before giving off a little pop pass to Bundee Aki who hit the line at pace, breaking through the defence and dotting down under the posts. Tuala's conversion taking the score to 14-6.
While they showed moments of brilliance on attack, Counties failed to execute the basics at times, with restart after restart butchered.
They weren't initially punished for wastefulness in their own half, but Tasman did get their try six minutes from the break. Banks was the man who set it up, his break throwing the Counties defence into disarray from where the ball was worked out wide to flanker Liam Squire who went over in the corner.
Tasman had the final say in the first period, with Banks' third penalty on the stroke of half-time seeing Counties head into the shed with a slender 17-16 lead.
Counties were dealt a blow heading into the second period with Hika Elliot not returning to the field having taken a knock to the head and it was the visitors who began to find space as they stretched the Counties defence with Tom Marshall penetrating well in the midfield.
Steelers prop Jarrod Firth could consider himself lucky to remain on the field after his 54th-minute infringement, taking out the Tasman line-out jumper in the air with the Makos five out from the line. Tasman were awarded just a penalty for the dangerous play and they made the most of the situation. Having elected to take the scrum, Shane Christie - playing with seven on his back but stationed at eight for the scrum - picked up from the base and surged over the line.
Replacement Sione Molia showed his class from the tee with a 44 metre strike that reduced the lead to just three points at 23-20, only for Banks to reclaim the six-point lead with a penalty of his own in the 62nd minute.
With a remarkable record of 100 percent retention of their line-out ball, Tasman were able to secure ball with ease. However, it was a messy line-out from which their third try arrived. Scrum-half Mark Swanepoel did well to gather the loose ball and the Makos did well to keep the ball alive, working the ball through the backs for Kieron Fonotia to go over in the corner.
Banks' conversion took the score out to 33-20, with the killer blow having seemingly been landed.
Marshall rubbed salt into the Counties wounds with a bonus-point try for Tasman five minutes from time. The soon-to-be Chiefs man was first onto a deft grubber behind the defence into the in-goal area from Cripps, a tactic that nearly paid off in the first period, with the home defence too slow to react.
Counties would not go down quietly and nearly three minutes of additional time was played as Tana Umaga's men looked desperately for a consolation score but it did not arrive, with Tasman securing a 40-20 victory.
Tries: Pulu, Aki
Con: Tuala 2
Pen: Tuala, Molia
Tries: Squire, Christie, Fonotia, Marshall
Con: Banks 4
Pen: Banks 4
Counties Manukau: 15 Sherwin Stowers, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Tony Pulu, 10 Ahsee Tuala, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Fritz Lee (c), 7 Maama Vaipulu, 6 Adam Cathcart, 5 Jimmy Tupou, 4 Ronald Raaymakers, 3 Jarrod Firth, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Sam Aiono.
Replacements: 16 Michael Lea, 17 Simon Lemalu, 18 Johnny Kawau, 19 Sean Reidy, 20 Kane Hancy, 21 Sam Vaka.
Tasman: 15 Marty Banks, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Tom Marshall, 11 James Lowe, 10 Hayden Cripps, 9 Mark Swanepoel, 8 Tevita Koloamatangi, 7 Shane Christie (c), 6 Liam Squire, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Sila Puafisi, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements: 16 Francis Smith, 17 Siua Halanukonuka, 18 Tevita Cavubati, 19 Gary Redmond, 20 Kaide Whiting, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Mitchell Scott.