It was a bad case of first game nerves for the Bay of Plenty Steamers as they opened their Mitre 10 Cup Championship campaign with a disappointing 30-22 loss to Taranaki at Tauranga Domain yesterday.
With a near capacity crowd of 5,000 in attendance, the Steamers put on a dreadful opening 40 minutes completely lacking any passion or the skills shown in the pre-season win over Auckland.
It was not helped by losing first-five Dan Hollinshead for the match in the fourth minute when his chin felt the force of bustling second-five Johnny Faauli's head.
Steamers captain Culum Retallick felt the team let the supporters down.
"The union did a good job here and the people turned up. There is a bit of expectation around us this year and that first 40 minutes was disappointing to be fair," Retallick said.
"They came out and put us under the pump. We can't deny that. To be honest it felt a bit like that Waikato game (last year).
"We got a bit spooked what was shoved in front of us. It looked like we were a bit gun shy.
"The second half was pleasing. There is a belief in the group that we can do it but just because you train well and have a good game plan doesn't mean you are going to execute.
"We just needed a bit of mongrel there today and a bit of attitude."
The Steamers were fortunate to only trail 14-0 at halftime after tries to Faauli and flanker Berny Hall.
Dynamic lock Shahn Eru helped spark the Steamers into attack in the second spell with halfback Te Aihe Toma sniping around the breakdown to good effect.
But Taranaki scored again in the best move of the match finished off by halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi to lead 21-0 before the Steamers found their mojo.
First centre Lalakai Foketi was driven over the goal line before replacement fullback Te Rangi Fraser intercepted a wayward pass to close the deficit to 24-12.
Marty McKenzie kicked a couple of penalties to keep the Steamers at bay but when outstanding No 8 Joe Tupe crashed over there were hopes of a late miracle, that came to nothing in the end.
Steamers head coach Clayton McMillan was unsure why their scrum was mauled in the opening half.
"That was an area we thought we would do well in. As is normally the case when you have a poor set piece, it tends to have a flow-on effect for the rest of your game and that is definitely what it looked like in the first half," he said.
"It had the potential to be a real blow out but we showed some resolve and managed to score points. We have to find out why we started so slow."
Taranaki 30 (Johnny Faauli, Berny Hall, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi tries; Marty McKenzie 3 cons, 3 pens) Bay of Plenty 22 (Lalakai Foketi, Te Rangi Fraser, Joe Tupe tries; Kelly Haimona 2 cons, Luke Campbell pen) HT: 14-0