Rugby:Bye gives Rennie time to sweeten disposition

By Kelly Exelby


The Super Rugby bye has come at the perfect time for the Chiefs, who escaped Friday's 29-22 win over the resolute Brumbies at Mt Maunganui injury-free but may not have been so lucky if they'd had to front at training this week and suffer grumpy coach Dave Rennie.

There will be 30-odd players hoping Rennie's frosty demeanour post-match at Baypark Stadium will have thawed considerably once the squad reassembles next week in Hamilton.

The Chiefs will go into their bye week on the back of three successive victories and bank a gimme four points in their week off, but know they were lucky to escape Baypark with a win after an ordinary night's rugby was salvaged by a couple of late tries.

Rennie fronted the post-match press conference looking like he'd just discovered someone had keyed his car and backed over his cat on the way out, admitting he'd laid into his players after a turgid first half in which they played as if the game plan was written in Arabic.

The Brumbies are a stoic outfit, arriving at the Mount unbeaten and with coach Jake White not known for flash-Harry antics but for strangling the life out of opposition teams by camping on the advantage line and playing for territory.

Rennie said he and co-coaches Andrew Strawbridge, Tom Coventry and Wayne Smith sent the team out with a plan to combat the Brumbies' lack of attacking intent.

"It was a frustrating night and we'd talked a lot about playing up the middle against these guys, forcing them to commit some numbers around the edges because they tend to want to fan, yet from the word go we tossed it wide and threw a lot of passes out our backsides and put ourselves under pressure.

"There was certainly some improvement in the second half. We got a lot lower whereas we'd lost the gain line with or without the ball in the first half, although we knocked the ball on, lost possession twice and gave away a penalty within 90sec [of the restart], so even then it took us a while to get going.

"I'll have to go back and review the game but we weren't smart or accurate enough, although if you're looking for positives we came out on the right side of the ledger and dug deep. We weren't at our best but manufacturing that try right on fulltime was a bloody good effort."

The Chiefs emerged relatively unscathed - Rennie reckons wounded pride was the only concern - and two weeks away from the combat zone will allow players like Shane Cleaver, Hika Elliot, Lelia Masaga and co to recover.

Rennie was unsure whether the toll of beating the Blues and Crusaders leading up to the Brumbies was behind the lack of hard graft but said as a coach he was always nervous about bagging a couple of big trophies before playing a side who enjoy a close-range arm wrestle.

"Clearly, I'm not happy right now and the bye has come at a good time. Tonight's win takes us to 14 [points] and we're guaranteed another four, so we'll go into the Waratahs with 18 which puts us up with the leaders.

"I'm grumpy about tonight but tomorrow I'll look at the last four weeks and if you'd said to us we'd have 18 points I'd have taken it."

Questioned about the decision to shun a kick at goal from a handy position and go for a try at 15-15 in the 65th minute, Chiefs captain Craig Clarke said ordinarily he and co-skipper Liam Messam would have erred on the side of conservatism. But they decided to attack, camped out in the Brumbies' 22m for the first time in the match and the pressure eventually led to Sona Taumalolo crashing over.

"I looked at Aaron [first-five Aaron Cruden] and we felt we had momentum. We hadn't had any during the game and thought 'oh well, we've finally got some and might as well use it'. We felt like we were making the inroads we wanted to."

Clarke said the scoreboard clock debacle - now known as the Baypark clock-up - which threatened to confuse the players didn't have too much of an impact, with Rennie sending messages out to the players letting them know the clock was running about five minutes fast.

"For most of the game we'd looked at the ground clock until they [Brumbies] scored [tying up the game at 22-22 with the stadium clock reading 79mins but the actual time 75mins].

"Our doc mentioned to us there was four or five minutes to go and I approached the ref who confirmed four and let us take time off to tell the team."

Although most of the 12,500-strong crowd was confused, Rennie and White were working off the official time and were similarly nonplussed.

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