Defensive frailties and new combinations merged to undo Canterbury Country in a 38-36 loss to Marlborough in Blenheim.
Coach Nigel Smith said with 12 new players in the squad for the first game of the season, it took time to adjust to both attacking and defensive patterns, but he was confident the team will be better for game two of their South Island campaign against Southland Country, in Darfield, this Saturday.
“There were a lot of new faces and at times we missed a few links in our defensive systems and too many gaps appeared,” Smith said.
Canterbury Country was leading with 5min to go but elected to kick the ball back to Marlborough from a kick-off and they scored a few phases later.
Canterbury Country’s scrum was initially so dominant, they pushed Marlborough back 20m.
“After that, (Marlborough) subbed their entire front row off after 20min and while it helped them, we still had dominance,” he said.
Smith said the attack started well in the first half but soon cooled off and with defensive issues exposed, Marlborough took a commanding 24-12 half-time lead.
The second half proved to be an entertaining one, with Canterbury Country roaring back into the game largely on the back of a tremendous game from No 10, Brook Retallick, brother of All Blacks lock, Brodie.
“Brook was great for us, his general play, kicking and option-taking on attack kept us in with a chance,” Smith said.
He said Waihora lock Joe Robins got through a power of work all game.