Manawatu 6 British & Irish Lions 109
Shane Williams last night insisted he is taking nothing for granted after a memorable-five-try exhibition thrust him into Lions Test team contention.
Welsh wizard Williams cast his spell on second division minnows Manawatu as the Lions posted a record score in New Zealand, emphatically surpassing their 64 - 5 victory over Marlborough/Nelson 46 years ago.
The Lions also came within touching distance of an alltime biggest tour win - 116-10 against Western Australia four years ago - after racking up 17 tries and 71 unanswered second-half points.
Williams, too, was on the Lions record trail, but finished one score short of equalling the six touchdowns scored by David Duckham against 1971 New Zealand tour opponents West Coast-Buller and J J Williams' effort against South African side South West Districts three years later.
While Williams and company effectively found themselves involved in little more than a training exercise, there were still definite second Test pointers for head coach Sir Clive Woodward.
Lock Donncha O'Callaghan and flanker Martyn Williams, who both went off at halftime, surely did enough to secure Test 22 places in Wellington on Saturday, and Geordan Murphy also impressed from full-back.
Wing Williams stole the show, though, with his elusive running and brilliant awareness, thrilling Lions supporters who had been starved of entertaining rugby.
Woodward should now not hesitate in handing him an opportunity opposite All Blacks speed merchant Rico Gear as the Lions face a make-or-break encounter following their abject first Test display last weekend.
"I tried hard, and I came off the pitch feeling pretty happy," said Williams, who has scored 24 tries in 29 games for reigning Six Nations champions Wales.
"It is not up to me now. Hopefully, I will be involved (in the second Test), but if I am not, then I am not.
"We wanted to go out and put a marker down that we are a lot better than last weekend. A lot of the boys had a point to prove."
Woodward plans to announce the second Test team today and Lions fans will be furious if Williams does not start at Westpac Stadium alongside the likes of Gavin Henson and Josh Lewsey in a back division which must be reshaped anyway with captain Brian O'Driscoll sidelined through injury.
"There is no doubt that Shane was outstanding today," said Lions coach Ian McGeechan. "He is a good finisher with good running lines."
The game - which heralded the Lions' first visit to Palmerston North since 1977 - was billed a mis-match, and so it proved.
Once lock Simon Shaw won the first lineout - to ironic cheers, given the embarrassing Lions effort in that department last Saturday - Williams and company played exclusive front-foot rugby.
There were six tries in the first half, but a further 11 after the break as the Lions scored more tries in one game than during all seven previous tour matches together.
Fly-half Ronan O'Gara, who did not even appear until the 50th minute, collected 20 points, while the man he replaced - England's Charlie Hodgson - contributed 19.
Touchdowns were shared by Williams (5), O'Gara (2), Mark Cueto (2), Murphy, Hodgson, Jason Robinson, Martin Corry, Neil Back, Gareth Cooper, Gordon D'Arcy and Ollie Smith, with Manawatu restricted to a couple of Jonathan Hargreaves penalties.
"They were too big, too strong and too fast in all facets of play," conceded Manawatu coach Charlie McAlister.
"I would imagine it will be a good result for the Lions' morale, but we are just extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to put our guys up against such awesome athletes.
"This was bigger than big for our region - it has given us a massive profile with the Lions coming to play us."
It was an old-fashioned rugby occasion at the Arena Manawatu, when a touring institution came, saw and plundered, but left having provided so many memories for local fans, coaches and young players.
Sadly, if future Lions tours are allowed to become simply fly-in, fly-out Test match missions with an emphasis on business and money, then teams like Manawatu will disappear off the map.