Losing has taught Chiefs timely lessons
The Chiefs got a set-piece lesson from the Crusaders last week and colourful prop Sona Taumalolo says he will be better equipped for the heat of playoff battle as a result.
Taumalolo is playing his last season for the Chiefs before heading to France. He will chalk up his 50th game for the franchise from the bench in Wellington tomorrow night.
He found himself the target of referee Steve Walsh for what Walsh believed was angling at scrum time.
At the same time the all-All Blacks Crusaders pack gained a decisive edge both there and in lineouts.
The Chiefs now have to learn from those lessons in time for tomorrow night's final regular season match against the Hurricanes in Wellington, but also use that in the home semifinal and possible final that will follow.
"We were a wee bit disappointed at pretty much our scrums and our lineout at the weekend," Taumalolo said.
"We have always dominated any team in this competition in the set piece but on the weekend we let ourselves down."
The loosehead prop was right in the front line of the scrums and said there was always the factor of how a referee interprets that area of the game.
"At the weekend the ref kept telling me off about angle and stuff and I'm not complaining, but they do it too and also put their hand on the ground and nothing is done."
Next time Taumalolo said he would be more determined to stick to the game plan despite the pressure and just work harder to gain dominance.
"We learnt from what happened in the weekend there. [The Crusaders] have been there in finals a few times and we just have to learn to back ourselves in the set piece in those big games," Taumalolo said.
"If we want to go all the way this year we have to be able to handle that kind of pressure."
As far as the lineouts went, Taumalolo felt the Chiefs forwards had confused each other with miscommunication as to where the ball was going and what movements were required on the ground.
"Yes, we missed Craig [Clarke] because he normally runs the lineouts and pulled out sick, but we're not complaining about that because that can happen to anyone and someone has to step up and perform their role."
The Hurricanes might not possess quite the set-piece firepower of the Crusaders, but they beat the Cantabrians two weeks ago and the Chiefs need five competition points to be sure of top seeding and home advantage throughout the playoffs.
"They are going to be a tough side to play, the Hurricanes, and I think the boys will look forward this week to bouncing back and keeping going.
"We are really focused on the game this week and then hopefully we'll get another chance against the Crusaders.
"We'll be really ready for that," he said.