Another week of wondering why they just couldn't get the job done will likely be on the cards for Waikato as they reflect on another lackluster performance that saw victory lost despite it being in sight throughout.

Honest and passionate conversations were had in the dressing sheds at FMG Stadium following Waikato's second straight loss, this time going down to Hawke's Bay narrowly 27-24 on Thursday night.

They take two points, but Waikato's head coach Andrew Strawbridge said the team had a lot to reflect on after the match and spoke of a tense dressing room where the team's leaders had much to say.

"We had quite an honest conversation in the dressing room just now, our discipline is letting us down and we are battling particularly at lineout time. Our leaders spoke quite stridently about the way we played and what we need to do," Strawbridge said.


It may be that Waikato need to figure out what fighting and battling away for the full 80-minutes looks like in the coming weeks, but according to Strawbridge, it will also be the coaches that themselves admit they'll be looking hard in the mirror over the course of what will be a nine-day turnaround.

Needing a win to stay within grasp of Premiership leaders, Waikato put in a solid first half but let it all go awry after halftime in a shambolic set piece showing and continued issues with discipline.

The same possession, the same amount of time in the opposition's red zone and the same level of intensity fell away, exactly what Strawbridge and his fellow coaches wanted to avoid despite things going reasonably well with reward for some hard toil.

"We're pretty mindful about how we've finished the past few weeks and we wanted to play it like it's the beginning of a game again, but we had a pretty average second stanza and gave Hawke's Bay all the momentum," Strawbridge said.

But it was the time without the ball and inside their own red zone that hurt Waikato most, allowing 17-unanswered points thanks to a high penalty count from their poor discipline which would eventually cost them a man.

Hawkes Bay, after all, are leading the championship division of Mitre 10 Cup and it's now the second time Waikato have lost an inter division match up on the season.

Positives were to be found however, particularly at first five where Revez Reihana enjoyed his transition back to a familiar position. For the New Zealand U-21 representative, he came into Mitre 10 Cup not expecting much game time but has ended up becoming a mainstay due to injuries and proved to be a suitable backup for Fletcher Smith running the backline.

Solomon Alaimalo, the exciting utility back from the Chiefs, made his long-awaited debut for Waikato after missing the first month of Mitre 10 Cup with an injury.


Keen to make an impact after a frustrating Super Rugby season, Alaimalo got a try for his efforts and made every attempt to inject himself in the game from the left wing, including what should have been a crucial try saving tackle only to have the referee award it anyway.

Reflecting on the match in the sheds, Alaimalo spoke of the frustrations of a stop start season impacted by injury and

"There is no better feeling than playing for your teammates so I really missed that, obviously this is the first season I've had that has been impacted by injury so I was really keen to make an impact tonight and I was really happy to get through the full 80 minutes," Alaimalo said.

At this point, some would say that Waikato need all the help they can get, so Alaimalo's leadership and Super Rugby experience will certainly help.

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