Otumoetai Eels coach Stan Nicholas gathered his team around him after their 49-20 loss to Taniwharau on Saturday.
"I just told them, keep your heads up - it's just one of those days that it didn't come off and I said that it was good that it happened early in the season so we know where we went wrong."
The team that had beaten Pikiao Warriors 32-20 the previous weekend had been decimated by injury.
"But I take my hat off to those boys who had to step up from the reserves - we had six out from last week and we had to pull up the reserves, but it was a great effort considering."
Nicholas said the lack of first-team experience and poor discipline were the main differences between the sides.
"And we were forcing ball that didn't need to be forced. But a little bit of indiscipline is costly in the end - we kept giving them the ball back so that means you are on defence and that costs you in attack.
"But all in all it was a good game and they deserved to win - they are a good side. I talked to their coach just before fulltime and he said that was their best performance so far."
Taniwharau led 12-0 inside 10 minutes. Giving away needless penalties late in the tackle count allowed Taniwharau to dominate possession, but the Eels gradually clawed their way back and left wing Ryan Gordon went close after taking a Josh Weeden bomb.
Taniwharau's discipline was also found wanting. Eels hooker Tane Leef opened the home side's account, scooting over from dummy half after the visitors had been penalised for a strip. Gordon scored his try out wide on the left after another penalty, and moments later got between Pawhare Brown and Te Ranginui Taoho to prevent a try at the other end.
With Josh Weeden converting one from two it was 10-12, but that was as close as the home side got.
The Eels were pressing, but a scuffle saw Vance Te Utupoto in the sin bin and the resulting penalty gave the visitors an easy way out of their half. They scored two tries while the Eels were a man short, making it 24-10 after 40 minutes.
With the game only halfway through, the feeling was that the Eels needed to be the next to score and while Leef nabbed his second with a quick tap 13 minutes into the half, and Peter Bidois went over to bring the Eels to within four points, it was Taniwharau who then piled on the pressure and points with four more tries.
Next weekend the Eels travel to Rotorua's Puketawhero Park to take on Ngongotaha Chiefs, who sit at the bottom of the Wai-Coa-Bay Premiership.