Seven competition points represents a good South African trip for the Chiefs but other, less positive, numbers are worrying coach Dave Rennie.
Three yellow cards in the two matches – a narrow defeat by the Stormers in Cape Town and this morning’s scrappy 35-24 bonus point victory over the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth – tells a different story and it’s compounded by the heavy penalty count against the Chiefs.
Replacement halfback Augustine Pulu was the latest culprit – sinbinned for a professional foul in the second half which coincided with the Kings putting a fair bit of acid, along with eight points, on the Chiefs.
They won with some breathing space, but had a bit of luck gone the Kings’ way it could have been an even tighter finish. As it was, the margin in the final eight minutes was only eight points. Gareth Anscombe missed a rare chance to put the Chiefs further ahead before making up for it in the dying minutes.
“It’s a major concern,” Rennie said of the penalties and yellow cards, most of which are coming at the breakdown.
“We seem to be counter rucking okay, but as soon as we put our hands in we are getting penalised. Smithy [assistant coach Wayne Smith] has done a lot of work in that area and it’s disappointing.”
Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Nick Crosswell spent time in the bin last week against the Stormers, a trend the coach is keen to nip in the bud.
Rennie felt some of the “hype” around the match in front of a big crowd at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium could have been costly in terms of lost focus.
“It was Liam’s 100th. They seemed a bit over-anxious, pushing passes when they shouldn’t have and not passing when they should have. There was a determination to put a big one up for Liam – maybe it was over-hyped.”
The sore bodies and impending 30-hour trip home should bring the squad back down to earth. They arrive on Monday morning and must prepare for the visit of the Highlanders on Friday.
No8 Ross Filipo looks set for a long spell on the sidelines after injuring a knee in the first 30 minutes. It was his first game for the Chiefs and could well be his last this season, Rennie saying it looked like an ACL injury. “It’s gut wrenching for him,” the coach said.
Messam ended the match with a swollen ankle. A positive was the way lock Brodie Retallick came through. He entered in the second half via the reserves bench after not training all week due to a hip injury.
The Kings, who lost lock and captain Darron Nell before kick-off with a calf injury, scrapped and scrambled, but looked vulnerable when the Chiefs spread the ball.
Lelia Masaga, sporting a cut on his left cheek, cashed in with three tries; flanker Sam Cane, who replaced Filipo, scoring the other in the second half when bulldozing over from close range.
The Kings’ 18-year-old speedster Sergeal Pietersen, scored a popular 90m try just before halftime when capitalising on a misunderstanding between Aaron Cruden and Masaga, and No8 Jacques Englebrecht dived over from close range after Pulu’s departure.
All of which drew a measured response from Rennie. “We have pretty high expectations … some of the decision-making wasn’t good enough.
“The 13 minutes after halftime was pretty clinical _ we had four tries by then, but in the last 27 minutes we only scored three points.”
Chiefs: 35 (Lelia Masaga 3, Sam Cane tries; Gareth Anscombe 3 cons, 3 pens).
Kings: 24 (Sergeal Pietersen, Jacques Englebrecht tries; Demetri Catrakilis con, 4 pens).
By Patrick McKendry Email Patrick