Waikato's rugby team will be disappointed with themselves after taking a step back during a dismal defensive effort against Bay of Plenty.

It was critical that Waikato hit the reset button after last week's win over Canterbury in opening weekend.

Such occasions often provide little insight into how a team is going to perform during a season, even when the winning result comes against a side tipped to be toward the pointy end of the ladder.

Bay of Plenty would have shared similar sentiments in camp during the week, but only one team was ever really in control of Sunday's contest that closed out the second week of Mitre 10 Cup, also doubling as a battle for the Chiefs Country Cup.

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Losing the contest 40-14 suggests that there is a lot for Waikato to work on if they are to avoid being mid-table battlers, a position coaches and senior players desperately want to avoid.

The heavy defeat is one thing, but Waikato's inability to turn momentum at any point in the match suggests that there wasn't the same level of execution and mindset which came in Round One.

A step backwards, especially in the physical battle up front. Waikato's scrum was destroyed by Bay of Plenty, showing why the experience missing from the front row was telling in comparison.

Waikato forwards try to penetrate a solid Bay of Plenty defensive system. Photo / Lauran Robinson
Waikato forwards try to penetrate a solid Bay of Plenty defensive system. Photo / Lauran Robinson

This is, after all, still a very young side in the experience ranks in some key positions, so performances like this shouldn't come as too big a surprise.

General set piece play went awry more often than not, either with poor execution as backline runners got in the way of each other or through solid Bay of Plenty tacklers who didn't often misread a play.

A big work-on for Waikato has been on alignment, particularly defensive re-alignment in the process of phase play.

Whatever the work at training, clearly the execution lacked on the field because Waikato wasn't only not aligned on defense, they fell off many tackles and appeared unable to adjust to broken play.

That will disappoint the most, because when they had to scramble, Waikato managed to get a decent job done at times, it was just how one-on-one match-ups and the inability to fix holes in the defence.

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It's not the result you want from what was a reasonably positive start to the season, but the standouts from a week earlier were again impressive, albeit in a losing effort.

Quinn Tupaea delivered another strong performance, this time in a losing effort for Waikato. Photo / Lauran Robinson
Quinn Tupaea delivered another strong performance, this time in a losing effort for Waikato. Photo / Lauran Robinson

Twenty-year old midfielder Quinn Tupaea is beginning to look like the real deal destined for higher honours in Super Rugby, scoring twice in what would be Waikato's only trips over the try line.

Tupaea has an X Factor about his play, and it's something that opposition must work out how to manage, fast.

Equally as good once again, Scottish import Hamilton Burr who arrived in New Zealand and suited up for Hautapu in club rugby just a few months ago.

Burr's physicality coupled with his decisive speed off the line have made him an absolute handful at flanker, and the 23-year old could be a big part of Waikato's forward pack throughout the season.

With a points deficit this great, nothing comes from it for Waikato in terms of advancement up the Mitre 10 Cup ladder.

That sort of result can't become the norm over the course of future rounds.

Michael Pulman is a freelance journalist based in Hamilton and covers rugby, cricket and social issues.