By Anendra Singh, Hawke's Bay Today sports editor
Just as it was for the British and Irish Lions rugby team, it was Napier City Rovers game to squander today.
Mercifully the Conroy Removals-sponsored Blues didn't as they thumped a predominantly 10-man Stop Out 4-1 at Bluewater Stadium, Park Island, in their Lotto Central League soccer match.
All the pre-match hype was about the physicality the third-placed Wellington visitors were renowned for and today's game lent credence to that approach after they found themselves a player down midway through the first half.
Conversely, player/coach Bill Robertson's hosts bided their time to break down the plucky resolve of their opposition.
If construction works was the yardstick of scoring, left wing Josh Stevenson received a pass to his flank in the 20th minute but, instead of shooting it from inside the box, lopped it up to the far post.
Stop Out goalkeeper James McPeake thwarted the header of centre-mid Ross Willox who had orchestrated the attack.
But the defining moment of the match came in the 23rd minute when referee Anthony Riley, of Palmerston North, sent Stop Out striker Martin Packer packing with a second yellow-card offence after a challenge that left Stevenson keeled over clutching his left eye.
Having received a caution for pulling the shirt of Blues striker Angus Kilkolly minutes earlier, Stop Out skipper/centreback Jason Tipping was left spitting tacks in the 39th minute when he brought down Rovers counterpart Fergus Neil cold inside the box before rightback Charlie Yexley's cross from the top-end of the field had come through.
Fittingly Kilkolly buried the ball into the net for a 1-0 lead.
In the second half, the visitors didn't ease up as they mounted attacks and came close to the left upright from a free kick squeezed past a wall.
But it was Kilkolly who drew a louder "Ooh" when he drilled a ball that McPeake parried just outside his right upright a minute later.
Teenager Willox, in what seemed to be all the time in the world, showed his teammates how it was done in the 66th minute with a deft touch and a classy finish to beat McPeake from about 20m out on the top, left flank of the box for a 2-0 lead.
Four minutes later, Yexley and Tipping were left remonstrating with Riley who eventually consulted his assistant, Brad Brunton, before awarding Stop Out a free kick although the referee also spoke with visiting coach Chris Sambrooke who had resorted to expletives earlier on.
The Rovers pulled off Yexley a few minutes later and injected Ethan Ladd.
In the 77th minute, a Stevenson pile driver went agonisingly past McPeake which prompted the coach Sambrooke to substitute Cherbal Khouchaba and Tipping with Brayan Heredia and James Sharp, respectively, as Steve Guley slipped on the captain's armband.
A muted cheer and celebration followed in the 82nd minute when Stevenson slipped a ball into the net, deflecting off a defender's foot to make it 3-0.
It was the time for the mercy rule to be imposed as Kilkolly rose like a salmon to nod in an Oliver Corren cornerkick into the net in the 85th minute to extend the lead to 4-0.
A minute later, teenager Karan Mandair made his Central League debut for the Rovers in replacing Canadian import striker Jean-Michel Paulin.
But, rewardingly, the never-say-die attitude of Stop Out reaped a goal from Justin Guley in the box in referee's time to make it 4-1.
Blues reserve goalkeeper Kyle Baxter went down and should have blocked the jab shot but the ball rolled in between his legs.