Chiefs coach Dave Rennie was ruing a lack of physicality, lineout accuracy and basic discipline after his side suffered their first Super Rugby loss of the season - 36-34 to the Stormers in Cape Town today.
The Chiefs came away with two bonus points, scoring four tries to the home side's three, but the unerring boot of Stormers and Springboks fullback Joe Pietersen kicked eight from eight, including five penalties to seal the result at a packed Newlands Stadium.
In the end the Chiefs could have stolen victory but for a slow clearance to first five-eighth Aaron Cruden who was setting up for a dropped goal with time virtually up.
But Rennie felt his side would not have deserved such a Houdini escape after operating on minority possession and having to defend their own line on a number of occasions against a more aggressive Stormers forward pack well led by towering Springbok lock Andries Bekker and cheered on by nearly 38,000 fans.
"We lost the collisions with and without the ball, we played a big chunk of the game without possession, they had a pretty aggressive lineout and stole a bit of ours and we gave away penalties and we almost won the game," Rennie said from Cape Town.
Despite the consolation of two bonus points to give the Chiefs 12 points from their first three matches, two of which have been away from home, Rennie said it had been very disappointing to drop a match that had been "very winnable".
Bekker, fellow lock De Kock Steenkamp and flanker Rynhardt Elstadt created havoc in the Chiefs' lineout, grabbing several steals and making it difficult for the visitors to create any sort of attacking platform, while there were few scrums in the game and none until the 28th minute.
"We tried to speed things up, we tried to go to short lineouts but they still caused us a bit of grief and we certainly have a bit of work to do in that area as they were able to shut off our supply of ball in that area.
"When we had the ball, especially in the last 20 when we finally started hitting the right people we got a lot better go-forward, but earlier on we were just individuals running into walls and that's the last thing we wanted to do against these guys."
The Chiefs had a player shown a yellow card towards the end of each half, standout halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow sin-binned before the break after a general team warning for slowing the ball down at rucks, while replacement flanker Nick Crosswell reduced his team to 14 players for the last six minutes of the game for holding back a defender on the fringes of a ruck just as the tourists were gaining some much needed attacking momentum after getting back within two points of the Stormers.
But while Rennie was disappointed at his own side's ill-discipline at times that put them under enormous pressure, he was unhappy that referee Jaco Peyper put away his whistle in the dying stages and allowed the Stormers to grab a key steal while off their feet after Cruden had been forced to run from a dropped goal setup.
"But in the end we put ourselves in that situation. We didn't win any collisions, defensively or with ball in hand, so for a long time we didn't have the ball."
On the plus side the Chiefs did score four tries against a Stormers defence renowned as being the best in the competition and at times, particularly in the final quarter, their backline attack looked sharp and dangerous.
Outside the clever Cruden, Charlie Ngatai had a strong starting debut at second-five and was rewarded with two tries, Tim Nanai-Williams was again outstanding on attack and defence at centre, Gareth Anscombe chimed in well from fullback and Andrew Horrell injected attacking flair when he come on in place of Ngatai.
Cruden created two tries from clever angled grubber kicks that he slid in behind the rushing Stormers defence, but he will rue a couple of such attempted kicks out of defence, particularly the one that was blocked by the legs of Elstadt and presented winger Gio Aplon with a soft try.
Anscombe gave another impressive goal-kicking display, missing just one of his seven attempts.
Scorers: Stormers 36 (Gio Aplon 2, Nic Groom tries; Joe Pietersen 3 conversions, 5 penalty goals) Chiefs 34 (Charlie Ngatai 2, Tim Nanai-Williams, Andrew Horrell tries; Gareth Anscombe 4 conversions, 2 penalty goals). Halftime 26-17 Stormers.
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