A year ago, Manawatu XV captain Rob Foreman recalled how his old Wairarapa-Bush confederates came embarrassingly close to skittling Charlie McAlister's side in Palmerston North.
Yesterday, Manawatu skewered Wairarapa-Bush 76-7 and had the starters been retained, the 45-0 halftime margin might have doubled.
"We had a lot of ball, we strung together some very good movements and they resulted in tries," said coach Dave Rennie.
"But you have to put things in perspective; the quality of the opposition was very young and inexperienced and we should have put them to the sword. We've got a long way to go, especially defensively, in ball support, in contact and accuracy."
The injury-hit home team, coached by former Hato Paora College teacher Lofty Stevenson, started with only two men from last year's Heartland champion XV and in the backs, was out-paced. Manawatu's defence was seldom tested.
Rennie's tally of injured beforehand was 18. He warned Manawatu would also be sub-strength versus Hawke's Bay at Napier on June 29.
Of those who fronted yesterday, put red ink beside the names of Cardiff Blues lock James Goode and 18-year-old five-eighth Aaron Cruden, son of Stu, the former Manawatu and Wairarapa-Bush captain.
Goode lived up to his surname with total competence at kickoffs and in lineouts and big bursts around the track. Rennie hinted at "something special" about Cruden with his uncanny knack to ghost through half-gaps and offload under heat either way. He was instrumental in five of the 12 tries.
In the promising bracket, add Bush opensider Raymond Allen, who Waikato wanted back under contract this year. Allen's energetic first-half suggested he could be the back-up to Josh Bradnock at No 7.
Aside from one handling lapse, burly Linton Army and former Canterbury B wing Aaron James bursts and gas were too much for Wairarapa and he scored three tries.
Japanese wing Yohei Shinomiya came in for the injured Siaosi Anamani and locals were appealing for Yohei to slow down because he was too quick. He didn't hold back in the tough stuff either.
The score was of no account on a beautiful Masterton day. Manawatu's skills and fitness work have clearly escalated. Matty James took 31 minutes to put boot to ball and penalty shots were ignored.
Manawatu started swiftly, 31-0 after 24 minutes, but as the subs rocked on in the second half, the heat went off Wairarapa up front, except in mauls. Manawatu pulverised a few scrums in the first half but the lineout calling was initially awry.
When that was sorted, lock Lisiate Fa'aoso was pre-eminent, not that his opposite, Carterton's Fijian Tomasi Kedrabuka was any slouch.
Wairarapa couldn't handle Manawatu's offloads from Cruden and Johnny Leota, but too many wide passes went down, inaccuracy and faulty alignment which Hawke's Bay will relish. In tennis they would be unforced errors, although this was hit-out No 1.
There were solid games also from Aaron Good, Daniel Alofa and James Su'a.
With prop Talau Hala off and no specialist tighthead on deck, Wairarapa began cheekily screwing the scrum; tighthead David Te Moana is two weeks off being fit.
Stevenson was glad to get a try after losing 49-0 to Wellington and 79-0 to Hawke's Bay.
"We train once a week and Manawatu and Hawke's Bay have had a year of professionalism," he said. "We don't play at that level in the next world."
Oh, and Manawatu retained the Bruce Steel Cup.
Who played for Manawatu? Kurt Baker, Yohei Shinomiya (Louis Maxwell 70m), Johnny Leota, Aaron James, Aaron Cruden, Matty James (Frank Bryant 50m), Aaron Good (Stephen Treleaven 65m); Daniel Alofa (Hamish Gosling 50m), Raymond Allen (Josh Bradnock 65m), James Su'a, James Goode, Lisiate Fa'aoso, Talau Hala (Aidan Nicols 52m), Rob Foreman (Sean O'Connor 65m), Mike Rowe.
Scorers: Manawatu XV 76, (Aaron James 3 (12m, 24m, 69m), Kurt Baker 2 (7m, 67m), Yohei Shinomiya 2 (10m, 33m), Rob Foreman (22m), James Goode (37m), Talau Hala (50m), Aaron Good (53m), Lisiate Fa'aoso (76m); Matty James 6, Aaron Cruden, Johnny Leota cons) Wairarapa-Bush 7 (Greig Wilson try 43m; Michael Hollis con) HT 45-0.
Goalkicking: Manawatu James 6/8, Cruden 1/3, Leota 1/1.