Central Bay of Plenty have started their Stan Meads Cup campaign with a 24-12 loss to Hamilton, in which they faced an uphill battle from the get-go.
In the first five minutes of the game, played at Marist Park yesterday, note>Saturday Central lock Courtsiko Domonibitu was shown a straight red card for a dangerous tackle.
Central coach Chris Shortall said the red card was a fair decision, but put his side on the back foot.
"Initially it was really good, we were quite dominant, especially in the forwards. I wouldn't say [the red card] sealed our fate, but it certainly made it hard playing with 14 men for 75 minutes," Shortall said.
Despite the loss, he was pleased with the way his team performed and believed a few small tweaks would have them firing on all cylinders.
"For a team that hasn't trained very much they were fantastic and dominant up front.
"I did think our tactics in the first half were a little bit narrow. Our pods were hitting between 9 and 10, we didn't vary our play enough. If we'd come a bit wider I think we would've been right.
"Hamilton scored two tries off our mistakes, both knock-ons and they were able to capitalise.
"There was a very strong wind going down the ground and Hamilton used it to great effect. Whenever we got in their 22 we'd make a mistake and they'd turn it over and kick us back out, all the way to halfway. We'd have to turn around and work our way back in," he said.
The score was 14-0 to Hamilton at halftime and, with the wind at their backs in the second half, Central were confident of a comeback.
"Our tactics were to pin them down in the left-hand corner with kicks but we never applied those tactics. The boys were keen to keep carrying it out of their own half but if we'd just stuck to that game plan I think we would've come away with a result."
Shortall said the standout player was Central No8 Rich Tuivanuarou who scored both of his team's tries.
"He is so strong in the tackle and stole so much ball. This boy deserves to go further in the game but just isn't looked at - he was dominant.
"Curtis Deane at second five was another standout - great carries, he made the advantage line and hit gaps, he was great. Ethan Draper played a storming game as well," he said.
In the other Stan Meads Cup game Te Awamutu beat Maniapoto 52-10 at home.