Highlanders pay price for lack of patience
Kade Poki offered the Highlanders a bit of hope on an otherwise dispiriting night against the Chiefs on Saturday.
The Stags wing scored a ripping second-half try, which had the Highlanders briefly take a 24-21 lead with half an hour to go, but it was the superior speed and fitness of the Chiefs which led them to score two more tries of their own to take the season opener 41-27.
It obviously wasn't the sort of start the Highlanders had been hoping for in front of more than 17,000 fans, including the rowdy Zoo area, after garnering plenty of attention with their off-season signings.
"We got down into their 22m and got a bit impatient and chucked 50-50 [passes]," Poki said after the game.
"It got a bit disjointed toward the end but I think we were always in it until we made mistakes and let them into the game."
The result swung on Tim Nanai-Williams' second try with quarter of an hour to go.
With both teams furiously counter-attacking, the Highlanders looked to go wide and a pass to John Hardie went loose. Counties speedster Nanai-Williams, who normally plays as a fullback and was in doubt before the game with a stomach bug, comfortably outpaced the Highlanders' defence to score the Chiefs' bonus point try and put the game out of reach.
"That was a try that we probably should have scored and then we found ourselves under our own posts," Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph said.
"At the end of the day our discipline wasn't good enough, our defence from broken play wasn't good enough."
Poki said the Highlanders would look to address their issues during their bye this week before their next game against the Cheetahs in Invercargill on March 9.
"In the second half, I think we got a bit impatient and we tried to score off every phase. We'll fix the problem, we've got the bye to do that, and we should be good going into the second round," said Poki, who is coming off contract with both Southland and the Highlanders and is looking at his options.
There was a further blow to the Highlanders with No 8 Nasi Manu breaking his foot just before halftime. He could be out for the next eight weeks.
That will put further pressure on the Highlanders' depth, with Jake Paringatai due to return from injury to contest a place at the back of the scrum with Elliot Dixon.
Meanwhile, South Africa's Southern Kings made a surprising start to their debut season, beating the Western Force 22-10 with Sergeal Petersen grabbing a brace of tries.
A late fightback from the Cheetahs wasn't enough to deny the Sharks a 29-22 win, Israel Folau scored for the Waratahs but the Reds still won 25-17 and the Bulls held off the Stormers 25-17.
John Kirwan's tenure as Blues coach got off to a winning start with a 34-20 win over the Hurricanes, while the Brumbies beat the Rebels 30-13.
The Southland Times