A weakened Western Force team fell to a predictable heavy defeat to the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday, going down 47-22.
Despite a gutsy performance, the absence of so many first-choice players was keenly-felt and the Hurricanes had too much class.
It was never going to be easy for the Force. All around, commentators and fans were busy listing the unavailable. Pocock, Brown, Cross, Shepherd, Pretorius... on it went. Five top-notch international pedigree players short, is a heck of a burden to carry.
But the visitors carried it remarkably well. Having initially looked like drowning early, the Force played it clever for much of the middle part of the game, retaining the ball well and looking for options at the right times.
That included an early reshuffle in the backs which saw James O'Connor shift to fly-half after Sam Harris showed still more signs of not being able to cope with the position. O'Connor did well enough to suggest he might retain that number ten jersey next week.
Only towards the end when fatigue set in and the quality came off the Hurricanes bench did the score begin to get ugly. But even then, a spirited last five minutes from the visitors got them a third try and gave the scoreline a fairer look.
For their part, the Hurricanes controlled the game well and never looked too susceptible to any upset. Tamati Ellison slotted seamlessly into the wing jersey vacated by Hosea Gear and ended up being the main creative force for his team with clever grubbers creating the first two tries and a terrific pass sending David Smith home for the crucial fourth.
O'Connor gave the Force an early lead with a penalty, quickly cancelled out by Willie Ripia - who did not have a good day with the boot - as the Force had slightly the better of the opening exchanges.
That all changed after a quarter of an hour when Ellison took the ball off his wing in midfield, threaded the ball through three onrushing defenders towards the corner where Cory Jane was on hand to finish off.
After Ripia had landed another, Ellison repeated his grubber technique to equal effect, this time sending David Smith in the other corner. This time Ripia landed the extras, making the score 18-3.
Back came the Force, narrowing their game and using Matt Hodgson and Nathan Sharpe as battering rams. The ball retention was excellent and the move yielded an excellent try, with O'Connor sparking the counter attack, Dane Haylett-Petty finding the gap and Josh Tatupu finishing in the corner.
That was half-time, 18-8 did not look too bad for the Force. But once the Hurricanes had weathered the initial storm of battering runs in the second half, they cut loose.
Jane managed to regain his own kick and send Michael Paterson in at the left corner, then another piece of Ellison magic, a one-movement catch, step and pass, gave David Smith his second and the 'Canes their bonus point.
Ripia could convert neither, and so at 28-8 the Force still had a chance, even more so when O'Connor's precise pass sent Haylett-Petty in and added the extras to make it 28-15.
But that was the end of their hopes. Neemia Tialata drove over from close range just after the hour and there were further scores for Nonu and Tyson Keats to salt the wounds. Chris O'Young grabbed a late score for cosmetic value to the scoreline.
Man of the match: Tamati Ellison couldn't get on the scoresheet, but he spent the match putting pretty much everyone else there!
For the Hurricanes:
Tries: Jane, D. Smith 2, Paterson, Tialata, Nonu, Keats
Cons: Ripia, Cruden 2
Pens: Ripia 2
For the Force:
Tries: Tatupu, Haylett-Petty, O'Young
Cons: O'Connor 2
Western Force: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Josh Tatupu, 11 Haig Sare, 10 Sam Harris, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Sam Wykes, 7 Matt Hodgson, 6 Ben McCalman, 5 Nathan Sharpe (c), 4 Tom Hockings, 3 Tim Fairbrother, 2 Pek Cowan, 1 Matt Dunning.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Tyrrell, 17 Nic Henderson, 18 Richard Stanford, 19 Luke Jones, 20 Chris O'Young, 21 Stefano Hunt, 22 Joelin Rapana.
Hurricanes: 15 Cory Jane, 14 Tamati Ellison, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 David Smith, 10 Willie Ripia, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Scott Waldrom, 6 Michael Paterson, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore (c), 1 John Schwalger.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Jacob Ellison, 18 Rodney So'oialo, 19 Karl Lowe, 20 Tyson Keats, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Andre Taylor.
Referee: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Television match official: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)