Just one week after reaching the top of the competition the Auckland Vulcans have suffered an upset loss at the hands of last-place Windsor Wolves at Mount Smart on Saturday.
With the Penrith Panthers having a bye this week in the NRL the currently last-place Wolves were able to field an impressive line-up of Penrith regulars such as Adrian Purtell, Yileen Gordon, Joseph Paulo, Sandor Earl, Masada Iosefa, Nathan Smith and Nafe Seluini.
The Vulcans saw their share of side changes also with losses including Joel Moon and Shaun Johnson, Jeremy Latimore, Sione Lousi, Johnny Aranga, and Darin Kingi.
Windsor began strong with early pressure leading to two quick tries in the first ten minutes.
Auckland was kept on the back foot even longer when the Wolves hit a 40/20 to set up another try and an unlucky bounce for fullback Willy Peace off a downfield kick saw Windsor score a fourth time for an early 20-0 lead in the first half.
The Vulcans eventually got on the board half an hour into the match when Anthony Gelling made a successful break down the sideline to score wide.
Aucklandwas gifted a set in good field position after the Wolves gave away a penalty, leading Vulcan front-rower James Gavet to score. Halfback Willy Heta converted the try, leaving the Vulcans trailing 20-10 at halftime.
The home team struck first in the second half with Atelea Nafetalai running in an early try to close the gap. Heta's kick bounced off the uprights leaving the score within one converted try at 20-14.
Unfortunately for the Vulcans the game never got any closer as an error by Isaac John allowed a Wolves winger to score a runaway.
Three back-to-back tries were piled on by the Wolves taking the score to a massive 42 points to 14.
Auckland made a respectable recovery attempt as they preyed on the Wolves' overconfidence making three back-to-back tries of their own by Ivan Penehe, Isaac John and Nuivoa Taka respectively.
However, at 42-30 with three minutes on the clock the Vulcans simply ran out of time, suffering their second loss of the season.
Vulcans coach Ritchie Blackmore showed concern for how the changes to both line-ups would affect the game but says that it is all part of playing in the New South Wales Cup.
"We were a little bit disturbed about what the changes were but they were [made] and we had to check our ability to play football as a squad" he says.
Blackmore also feels the team's defence in general is allowing too many tries through.
"We were just very sloppy in a number of areas," he says. "One of the things we need to focus on is making sure we wake up the defensive aspect of our game."
By all accounts Sene-Lefao was Windsor's best, followed closely by Seluini with Iosefa a bit back in third.
Vulcans needed someone to control the game but no-one really stepped up to be general. Was all off the cuff.
We were still in it until Nafe was subbed on -- despite making plenty of errors --but Wolves' tempo upped accordingly. Would love him to still be here, but happy he's doing well elsewhere. The more we have in the NRL the better for the NZ game.