Don’t say it too loud but Bay of Plenty Steamers coach Clayton McMillan has a warning for their Mitre 10 Cup competitors.
They haven’t got their A game going yet.
The team hit the ground running in the first two rounds, beating Taranaki and Counties Manukau of the competition’s Premiership tier, before slipping to losses late in the piece to Canterbury and then agonisingly last weekend to Hawkes Bay, by 29 to 28.
Their next assignment takes them to Albany tomorrow to take on another Premiership outfit, North Harbour, giving the Steamers the chance to get all of their crossover matches out of the way early before getting stuck into Championship opposition for the remainder of the competition.
Even in their defeats they were far from outclassed, and while the team have generally been getting ticks from the boss for their performances so far there’s plenty more to come from them, he says.
“To be perfectly honest if you take about a 25 minute period out of the game last week we’ve been really happy with our season. We’ve played some good stuff, we’ve played some hard teams, and we’ve ground out wins.
“Our challenge is to learn the lessons from the weekend and make sure that we front up in North Harbour and deliver.
“We don’t feel we’ve played our best rugby yet. And yet we also feel some of the teams that have played us have played their best rugby.
“Canterbury played a bloody good side against us, they had the Romanos and the Whitelocks and they had some big guns out there and it was a game that could have gone either way.
“Hawkes Bay obviously played well against us and got a result.
“But we’re tracking in the right direction minus a few minutes last week and if we get it right then we’re going to hurt some teams.”
Twice the team reasserted control over Hawkes Bay last Saturday after falling behind, only to see the Magpies find some divine inspiration from somewhere and get their noses back in front. The last of those occasions, unfortunately for the Steamers, coincided with the final whistle which gave them no chance of a third comeback.
“We were hugely frustrated by the outcome,” says Clayton. “We certainly don’t feel we played at the same level as we had in the previous three weeks. We left a lot of points out on the park. We’ve digested a lot of information out of that game and we think we’ve found some solutions.”
The breakdown, where they were too passive, and the lineout were the obvious areas of concern, Clayton says, along with at times falling short in the accuracy and ruthlessness needed to convert key moments into points.
“We felt like we created enough opportunities to win the game and just weren’t accurate enough under pressure to make those count.
“As much as we’re disappointed I certainly can’t fault the effort and attitude of our guys. At one stage we defended for 32 phases and we probably gave up about 20 metres which you’d expect if you’ve defended for 32 phases. So those sorts of things give us a lot of confidence that our guys aren’t leaving anything in the tank. We just need to be a little more accurate when we in scoring zones and turning that pressure back on the opposition.”
The Steamers take on North Harbour at QBE Stadium Albany tomorrow, kickoff is 2:05.