Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan has highlighted a critical period in the Super Rugby Aotearoa final when his side failed to take advantage of the game but believes they will be better for the experience.
Between the 53rd and 68th minutes of their 24-13 loss to the Crusaders last weekend, the Chiefs had at least a one-man advantage, and were 15 against 13 for five minutes of that span. The Chiefs added only three points during that quarter of an hour, through a Damian McKenzie penalty goal.
No one in the Chiefs team that lost to the Crusaders on Saturday night had played in a Super Rugby final before, and McMillan said that lack of experience showed against a Crusaders team that has now won five straight titles.
"When they were down to 13, we got a bit flustered, I think," McMillan said. "We probably over-played and didn't nail our set piece, and just allowed the Crusaders to get their game going. We'll reflect on that.
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"The key thing is we just learn and continue to grow. We can't do anything about it, we had the opportunities but we just didn't cash in on them.
"You just can't buy experience. That's why I talk about ceilings; this is a talented young group. I've been consistent in saying that I reckon the world could be our oyster, and it's moments like this that, although it hurts, if you're learning and grow from it, then we're going to become a real force to be reckoned with — hopefully in the coming months, but certainly in the coming years because there's no one out there that had experienced finals rugby, and that's really exciting."
The Chiefs plan to celebrate their achievements of the Super Rugby Aotearoa season when they return to Hamilton but won't have long to do so, as they immediately dive in to Super Rugby Transtasman, with an away trip against the Western Force first on the schedule.
McMillan confirmed the side would travel to Perth on Wednesday, and said while it was a tight turnaround, it was another opportunity for his young squad to gain valuable experience.
"Sometimes you have to travel, sometimes you have to have a short turnaround, sometimes you have to bounce back after you've had some disappointment. All of those are opportunities for growth and that's what we'll be pushing.
"Sometimes you have to go through a little bit of pain to get the long-term gain."