Barely a week after suffering his first defeat of the Super Rugby Pacific campaign, Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan was clearly feeling the pressure of the playoff push, even as he watched his side dismantle the Hurricanes in the wet at Hamilton’s FMG Stadium.
With their nearest rivals suddenly within striking distance, the runaway competition leaders needed to bounce back from their first real disappointment of the season and seemed to be back on track, with a 17-0 lead early in the second half.
As the Hurricanes found their footing, with breakout tries to fullback Josh Moorby and No.8 Braydon Iose, McMillan could not contain his frustration in the coaching box, slamming his walky-talky on the desk.
In particular, Iose’s try had him visibly seething, after the slippery ball popped from the hands of star Chiefs first-five Damian McKenzie and the loose forward outpaced pursuers over 50 metres to score under the crossbar.
“Yeah, the frustration is there for all to see on the face of the Chiefs coach,” observed Sky Sport commentator Tony Johnson. “He is not happy.”
In the final analysis, the Chiefs emerged 23-12 winners, missing out on a valuable bonus point, but still in charge of their playoff fate, especially after top-placed Aussies ACT Brumbies stumbled against Western Force on Sunday morning (NZ time).
“Happy we won and it was important we bounce back from the disappointment last week,” admitted McMillan.
“I thought we controlled large portions of the game, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was a fair amount of frustration at our decisionmaking at times and our inability to put the foot on the throat, when we had opportunities to do so.
“I think if you’re a fairly decent rugbywatcher, you can pick out the moments pretty easily.”
The Chiefs face the Brumbies and the Force in their final two outings of the regular season, and need just one more win to clinch home advantage through the playoffs.
“We often ride the emotions, the ups and downs of a game, but we’re at that point in the season where we know it’s not going to get any easier,” said McMillan.
“We’re striving really hard to improve our game and there were times when our decisionmaking was really good and there were times when it was way off the mark, which put us under pressure. In big games, that will hurt you.
“In a couple of weeks’ time, we can’t afford to make those same mistakes.”
Join Newshub at 9:30pm next Saturday for live updates of the Chiefs v Brumbies Super Rugby Pacific clash