Messam: Chiefs must cut mistakes

By Kris Shannon

The Highlanders and the Chiefs, Dunedin, New Zealand. Photo / photosport.nz
The Highlanders and the Chiefs, Dunedin, New Zealand. Photo / photosport.nz

It's a sentence that would have been incongruous at various points across the last three years: The Chiefs travelled to Dunedin and secured a bonus-point victory over the Highlanders but will need to be much better if they wish to beat the Blues.

But that's the early reality in the new Super Rugby season, after the Chiefs broke their drought against the southern side to set up an intriguing clash with the Blues next Friday night.

Having watched his men lose six straight meetings with the Highlanders, Chiefs coach Dave Rennie would have taken any win available on Friday night. So the unconvincing manner in which one arrived - scoring three opportunistic tries and benefiting from an error-prone opponent - would be banked.

Instead, having accrued five competition points and left the Highlanders with none, the Chiefs will be supremely satisfied with their return while knowing immediate improvements must also be made.

Yes, they scored three tries, but their attack never truly fired. And while they prevented the home side from finding the goalline with some superb defence, the Chiefs also missed a whopping 37 tackles.

In short, they played like it was their first game of the season and, somewhat shockingly, after their performance in Melbourne to begin the competition, the Blues appear ready to punish the Chiefs if the same mistakes are made in Hamilton on Friday night.

"To be honest, it was pretty ugly and pretty rusty, but it's not every day you come away with five points," Liam Messam told Newstalk ZB yesterday. "This competition is pretty tough so it's very important to get away wins and come away with any points."

The Chiefs managed that while trailing in every major statistical category. They subsisted on only 40 per cent possession and played the majority of the game inside their own half, somehow restricting the Highlanders to penalty goals despite the home side beating 37 defenders and making 12 clean breaks.

And after James Lowe twice proved a pickpocket and Hika Elliot executed an effective short lineout move for his side's third try, the visitors defended with determination to make their lead stand up.

"The boys showed a lot of character in defence," Messam said. "We tried to attack with the ball and use our big ball-carriers, but we couldn't get into the game and, when we did have the ball, we turned it over quite easily. So we've got to be better next week against a very dangerous Blues side."

- NZ Herald

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