Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

First take: The rare taste of defeat for Chiefs

Asaeli Tikoirotuma of the Chiefs looks dejected after his side's first defeat of 2014. Photo / Getty Images
Asaeli Tikoirotuma of the Chiefs looks dejected after his side's first defeat of 2014. Photo / Getty Images

Convention dictates rugby sides always talk about things to work on for the next match.

This time the Chiefs were genuine as the defending Super 15 champions reflected on their first defeat in this year's competition.

En route to South Africa, they stopped off in Perth for what used to be an awkward but bankable victory against the Force. Not these days and certainly not today as the Force roped in their third successive victory on the back of an unyielding defence.

That blue line bent but never broke while on attack, captain Matt Hodgson bullocked across for two close range tries to cement his side's historic victory.

Usually the Chiefs keep their cool but in the humidity of Perth, their composure wilted and their skills sagged. Almost 20 turnovers and 15 handling mistakes wrecked the occasions when they tried to build some continuity.

Several late raids looked likely but both times as they worked the Force tacklers back and forth across the field, the Chiefs made the crucial gaffe. The final move had Aaron Cruden snaking promisingly downfield but towards the sideline where his reverse pass was shelled.

Without one desperate ankletap from Tom Marshall which tipped Nick Cummins out near the corner and the work of men like Brodie Retallick and Liam Messam, the defeat would have been more decisive.

It will put more tension into their campaign as they head with a growing injury list for their next encounter with the Bulls. The Chiefs pulled gritty wins together to open the tournament and need to reclaim that strength and some cutting edge in South Africa.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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