Breakdown communication the key for slow learning Canterbury
The scoreline suggests defensive work be the priority as Canterbury plot to retain their provincial rugby crown, yet adapting to new breakdown laws is the prime concern after a Wellington selection won their final pre-season trial.
Canterbury weren't exactly dominated at the collision during a 43-14 loss in Christchurch on Friday, but they were clearly not up to speed with the latest rules revamp in just their second game under regulations designed to reduce injuries.
Referee Ben O'Keeffe was predictably a central figure as as a composite Cantabrian line-up struggled to get to grips with the need for a tackle to contest the ball from a different position - and not charge into contact.
Canterbury coach Scott Robertson, a former loose forward, pinpointed the new interpretations as the focus after a Wellington side also missing a host of Super Rugby players outscored his line-up seven tries to two.
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"We were stung heavily by the rules. The errors were what you normally make an error from, it's a guy putting his hands past someone in the breakdown," he said.
"Instinctually it's not quite there for us. We worked hard during the week and we played OK last week [against Otago] but this week the interpretations ... the ref was a little bit different. He was much harder Ben, than Jamie Nutbrown last week and we didn't adapt."
With their title defence opening against Auckland at AMI Stadium next Saturday, Robertson said the squad would be working overtime to adjust - a task particularly difficult for Super Rugby players that bypassed the trial matches.
"I'm worried about the Chiefs guys coming in," he said, after Dominic Bird and Tom Sanders watched the game from stands.
"They love a breakdown and cleaning people out. For them it takes a lot of that contact away."
Canterbury No 8 Reed Prinsep warned the team faced an ongoing education process.
"It'll probably a couple of weeks before some decent footage to see how it's best done and then we can go forward from there," he said.
Robertson said Wellington benefited from having an extra game to come to terms with the rules, a view acknowledged by counterpart Earl Va'a.
"This is our third crack at it, we're learning even today from a different referee. The main is you can't afford to lose your feet and got to ground now.
"It's a faster game, a lot more exciting for the spectators as well apart from when they get five metres out and the forwards put us to sleep with pick and go's," the former five-eighth smiled.
Prinsep opened the scoring from a close range lineout but Wellington then posted 29 unanswered points through superiors backline and support play.
Marshall Suckling reduced the deficit off a Jordie Barrett inside pass but Wellington - who play Hawke's Bay in Napier on Saturday - finished strongly with two more tries.
Wellington XV 43 [Isaia Walker-Leaware, Losi Filipo, Asafo Aumua, Wes Goosen, Chris Baumann, Valentine Meachen, Shaun Treeby tries; Jackson Garden-Bachop 2 con, Sheridan Rangihuna 2 con]
Cantabrians 14 [Reed Prinsep, Marshall Suckling tries; Ben Volavola con, Jordie Barrett con] HT: 17-7 at Rugby Park, Christchurch.