If steam could have escaped out of Mark Hammett's ears last night it would have.
The Hurricanes coach was fuming at the officials after his side was edged 17-12 by the Chiefs, a loss that leaves their Super Rugby playoff hopes in tatters.
Hammett wouldn't elaborate other than to say he would be speaking to Sanzar referee's boss Lyndon Bray about the performance of the officials.
"To be honest I'll be interested to see what your comments are about officiating because I can't say anything," the Hurricanes coach seethed. "It's been a tough night from that perspective. The first three penalties were very clearly not penalties ... they're pretty costly."
The reaction came after Chiefs first five-eighth Aaron Cruden banged over four penalties to inflict a damaging sixth loss on the Hurricanes as they head into the bye.
But, while there were some harsh calls at the breakdown, it was hard not to feel Hammett shared the angst of the 12,998 in the stands at the lapses that undid so much of his side's good work.
The territorial game plan was right on a night for the forwards.
Beauden Barrett didn't kick the ball out and with only one lineout throw, to the home side's eleven, during the first half the Chiefs could not establish an attacking platform.
But turnovers let the pressure gauge off at crucial moments and the champions seized their moment when it came, Tanerau Latimer's try in the 53rd minute proving the difference.
With All Blacks coaches Steve Hansen and Ian Foster as well as selector Grant Fox in the stands, the Chiefs didn't provide any real standouts, but were the more cohesive team.
"We always knew it'd be a bit of an arm wrestle and again the boys really stepped up defensively, which was massive for us tonight," coach Dave Rennie said.
"We played within ourselves a bit, tried to kick a lot more and played at the right end of the field. When we got that right we got rewarded."
Which is where Hammett can feel a little ripped off. His team did the better job gaining field position, but couldn't land the killer blow.
The one time fullback Andre Taylor decided to chance his arm on the counter-attack it blew up in the Hurricanes' face.
Chiefs fullback Robbie Robinson drilled the quick lineout ball to the corner and from the next lineout Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara's kick was charged down and regathered by opposite Tawera Kerr-Barlow, who popped the final pass to the ever present Latimer.
It seemed unjust that for all their patience the Hurricanes came unstuck on one crucial play, but the Chiefs deserved their win.
They clung to their 17-9 lead despite two further penalties to Barrett and the sin binning of replacement prop Ben Tameifuna with 10 minutes to play.
Centre Reynold Lee-Lo looked dangerous when he finally saw the ball and Tusi Pisi and Brad Shields added some punch off the bench, but when wing Alapati Leiua spilt a simple pass out wide it summed up the mood of a season that's not quite hitting its straps.
Hammett vowed not to stop chasing the playoffs, but the reality is that after the bye they face the Brumbies away, and have trips to Hamilton and Christchurch to come.
Their fate may no longer be in their hands.
Chiefs 17 (Tanerau Latimer try, Aaron Cruden 4 pens) Hurricanes 12 (Beauden Barrett 4 pens). HT: 12-9.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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