Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan witnessed first-hand just how challenging his new job is after an alarming collapse in the second half of their chastening defeat against the Highlanders on Friday night.
The Chiefs led 20-6 after 30 minutes and seemed destined to snap their worst losing streak for a dream start under their new coach, who leads the side this season while Warren Gatland is with the British and Irish Lions for their South Africa tour.
The Highlanders, inspired by Jona Narekis brilliant hat-trick of tries, had other ideas in their 39-23 win.
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Chiefs co-captains Sam Cane and Brad Weber tasted defeat in their Super Rugby Aotearoa opener against the Highlanders.
Narekis magic sparked a storming comeback and McMillan was left lamenting their loss of composure while individuals, including senior All Blacks, missed tackles they had to make in their Super Rugby Aotearoa opener.
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McMillan was evidently frustrated, taking issue with how the advantage law is being applied, but he was otherwise satisfied with the referees and kept his cool when assessing what caused their capitulation in Hamilton, something his side lacked as the Highlanders gained more momentum after half-time.
Naturally, he backed the Chiefs to soon turn the corner and when we do, well start winning some games, but the manner of their latest loss was a familiar tale from last years winless Aotearoa campaign.
[There were] individual missed tackles they obviously exploited, McMillan said in Fridays post-match press conference. I would go back to how did they get those opportunities?
We got a bit frantic at times when we just needed that composure. If we were able to get that, we might have been sitting here talking [about] a different story.
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Clayton McMillans first match as Chiefs coach ended in a loss to the Highlanders.
Nonetheless, the Chiefs slumped to their 10th successive loss, one shy of the worst losing run of any Kiwi team in Super Rugby history. The Highlanders lost 11 on the trot in an expanded competition from 2012-13.
Their streak has been especially tough because of the higher calibre of opposition each week. It doesnt get any easier because their next two matches are away to the Crusaders and the Hurricanes.
McMillan said Narekis intercept try in the 33rd minute, when the Chiefs were on the verge of going three tries ahead after two yellow cards for Highlanders Sio Tomkinson and Ash Dixon, was against the run of play and the start of their woes at FMG Stadium Waikato.
The penalty count was 13-10 against the Chiefs and McMillan had no issue with how strictly referee Paul Williams was policing the offside line.
The majority are coming for offsides and infringements at the breakdown, he said.
However, the beef that I have is when you get a penalty advantage, he added.
They might as well as take that away because you dont get an advantage.
The opposition just kill the ball. You lose that straight away.
The Chiefs reported no injury concerns on Friday and co-captain Sam Cane, who will be feeling the strain of their losing run more than anyone, wants them to bottle up their positive start and unleash it for longer periods.
Hot-stepping Etene Nanai-Seturo was always a threat from his left wing, forwards Tupou Vaai and Luke Jacobson impressed in the first half, and Damian McKenzie was typically lively from fullback.
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Etene Nanai-Seturo impressed for the Chiefs.
But their game fell apart after half-time.
We came out in that second half and were 10 per cent off, waiting for one another to make the first step, Cane said.
The Highlanders were the opposite and really took it to us.
The Crusaders, the four-time defending champions, are next up in Christchurch next Saturday.
Personally, it always excites me going down there to play them, Cane said.
Theyre extremely tough to roll, but its the tough games that are the most satisfying.