Injuries to captain Ash Dixon and vice-captain Brad Weber compounded the hurt Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby team's head coach Mark Ozich was feeling last night.
Ozich expected more from his troops than they delivered in yesterday's Mitre 10 Cup crossover 29-25 loss to Counties-Manukau Steelers in their first outing on a classy revamped McLean Park turf in Napier.
The winless Steelers arrived in Napier for their fourth match in 12 days with a lengthy injury list but still managed to spoil the hosts Father's Day.
Ozich said Dixon's knee injury, which forced him from the field in the 54th minute, could be serious but he won't have an accurate assessment until after scans today.
Weber aggravated an ankle injury suffered earlier this season and Ozich will again give him as long as possible before making a decision on his availability for Saturday night's match against Bay of Plenty at McLean Park.
"We felt we let that one get away. We did enough in patches but our skill execution let us down at crucial times. At halftime we spoke about being patient and respecting the ball but we failed to do it," Ozich explained.
"We need to take the learnings from this game and play a whole lot better if we are going to challenge Bay of Plenty."
Ozich agreed his side's 13 conceded turnovers were too many.
"On the flip side those two bonus points could come in handy, the problems we have can be fixed and we were not out of our depth."
Magpies player-of-the-match, winger Jonah Lowe, echoed his coach.
"We made too many mistakes when it counted and couldn't finish off. We needed to be more patient," 22-year-old Lowe said.
Lowe had one outing for the Hurricanes as a sub this season and said he tries to put all he learned the All Blacks in the Canes squad into use for the Magpies.
With his two tries, one from a spectacular solo kick and chase and another from a clever defensive read he is certainly achieving his goals.
As Ozich said the hosts weren't out of their depth. They could have won the game during the final seconds had lock Tom Parsons, who had a barnstormer until that point, secured a lineout throw.
The Magpies scrum functioned well against a bigger pack for most of the first half. Magpies No 8 Gareth Evans was again outstanding in all aspects of play, while openside flanker Josh Kaifa had his best performance of the season.
Weber's replacement, Folau Fakatava, performed well off the pine and had the honour of scoring the bonus point try, his first first class five pointer, which could prove crucial when the four Championship semifinalists are decided.
Captain and lock Matiaha Martin and hooker Joe Royal were workaholics in the Steelers pack. Highlanders winger Tevita Nabura made the most of his limited opportunities.
While former Magpies midfield back Cardiff Vaega would have been happy to leave Napier with a victory he would have been disappointed he didn't finish a try-scoring opportunity in the 10th minute.
Vaega had a 17 metre headstart on Magpies winger Mason Emerson who produced a gutsy chase to halt his progress in a manner in which fellow Lindisfarne College product Magpies pivot Tiaan Falcon did in the 74th minute when he stopped Steelers substitute Savelio Ropati from scoring.
Magpies first five-eighth Tiaan Falcon's 74th minute tackle on Steelers substitute Savelio Ropati. It was a try-saver and kept the Magpies hopes of victory alive.
Turning point: When Magpies lock Tom Parsons failed to secure a lineout throw in the final minute and conceded a turnover. The hosts could have snatched a late win but it wasn't to be.
Player of the match: Magpies winger Jonah Lowe. Two tries, an intercept and an outstanding kick and chase effort where he did well to keep himself and the ball in play. Plenty of intelligent defensive work also.
Scorers: Hawke's Bay Magpies 25 (Jonah Lowe 2, Josh Kaifa, Folau Fakatava tries; Tiaan Falcon con, pen), Counties-Manukau 29 (Tevita Nabura, Dan Hyatt, Joe Royal, Matiah Martin tries; Latiume Fosita 3 cons; pen). HT: Magpies 10-7.