The NSW Waratahs are ruing another sloppy start and diabolical defensive display after being handed a Super Rugby reality check in Wellington.
The Waratahs travelled to the New Zealand capital with high hopes of reviving their season, but will return home empty handed after surrendering 38-28 to the high-flying Hurricanes on Friday night.
Trailing 33-7 at halftime, the Tahs blew any chance of springing a boilover after leaking three tries in the opening 11 minutes.
With a bye next week, the Waratahs now have a fortnight of soul searching before resuming against the Kings in Sydney on April 21, with their finals hopes seemingly lost after just two wins in the first eight rounds.
Exasperated skipper Michael Hooper, easily NSW's stand-out performer again this campaign, said his side must learn to "start better".
"If we can get two tries at the start of the match, we'd be looking different," Hooper said.
"But it's not not that way at the moment. We've got to look at how to do that."
Quickfire tries to stand-in fullback Bryce Hegarty and halfback Jake Gordon early in the second half pulled the Waratahs to within 10 points at Westpac Stadium.
But a second five-pointer of the night from Hurricanes centre Ngani Laumape all but secured the hosts' victory.
"So much good in the back end of the game. Our fight can't be questioned this year," Hooper said.
"We throw it on in the last 40 most games, barring last week (in a 41-22 loss to the Crusaders).
"But the first 20 is an issue for us and it's really frustrating."
The Waratahs were once again their own worst enemies in the first half as Laumape, brothers Beauden and Jordie Barrett, Wes Goosen and Mark Abbott all crossed for tries.
The Tahs missed 27 tackles before the interval and were punished repeatedly for dashing out of the line trying to contain the competition's most potent attacking team.
The defeat left Australian sides none from 12 against Kiwi opposition in 2017.
Hooper, though, denied the uncertainty around how many Australian teams would be involved in the competition next year had contributed to the Waratahs' woes.
"I can't speak other teams (but) we're focused week to week, because that's all we can control," he said.
"We're really excited about playing all teams, Kiwi teams included, and we saw tonight as a huge opportunity.
"We didn't get the win, but we've got to rebuild. We've got a bye now, so we've got time to look at our deficiencies, I guess, and go again."