Taranaki showed why they are rated contenders for their first national provincial championship title when they outplayed Bay of Plenty 37-22 at Mt Maunganui on Saturday.
Led by a strong forward pack and virtuoso displays from first five-eighth Beauden Barrett and wing Waisake Naholo, the visitors produced a commanding first half display to lead 20-8.
Fringe All Black Barrett scored one of their four tries and landed all seven of his shots at goal in a 22-point haul in the match.
He was a constant threat with ball in hand, as was Naholo, who scored the try of the match from inside his own half late in the first spell when he used strength and speed to beat a host of defenders.
Taranaki boast one of the strongest teams on paper and this performance suggests they can improve on their best-ever finish - last year's third placing in the Premiership division.
Both teams were prepared to run the ball in fine conditions and Bay of Plenty looked dangerous when doing that in the second half.
The hosts, who were fourth last year, continued their six-season drought against Taranaki and will probably be without flanker Warren Lippi-Smith for the rest of this campaign after he reportedly broke his arm.
His replacement, former All Black Tanerau Latimer, set up the first try to winger Lelia Masaga with neat turnover after an exchange of early penalties.
Lock James Broadhurst put the visitors back in front with a simple try from a drive before Naholo's spectacular solo effort extended the lead.
Taranaki reserve back Willie Rickards was sent to the sinbin for a professional foul but Bay of Plenty couldn't capitalise in the 10min after halftime.
Instead it was Barrett who scored a long-range intercept try to virtually seal the result.
The hosts struck back through tries to lock Culum Retallick and reserve winger Lance MacDonald but Barrett had the final say when he set up captain Jason Eaton for the bonus point try.
Taranaki's next match is a Ranfurly Shield challenge from Tasman in New Plymouth next Saturday.