It was one step forwards, two steps back for the Rebels as the Highlanders ‘strangled’ them out of the game on Friday night, coach Tony McGahan said.
The Rebels leaked 51 points in Dunedin, though they showed some strong defensive efforts in parts, but it was their lack of attacking potency that caused the most concern.
Eighteen handling errors to the Highlanders’ six were basic muck-ups that gifted the Kiwis more chances, McGahan said.
“We fought hard, through effort and a few things, but then we fought and got the ball back and then we gave it back to them cheaply and hence they scored and all that good work's gone to waste,” he said.
“It's certainly a tough one to take, as you can imagine, so we'll need to dust ourselves off and we need to get back on to it.”
Rebels captain Nic Stirzaker lamented those fumbles after the game, speaking to Sky Sports.
“We put ourselves ender pressure with the dropped ball especially in our own half,” he said.
“We had to tackle the house down in that first half and I guess it just caught up with us in the end.”
Though he lamented those errors, McGahan said the Highlanders were just as punishing as their own mistakes.
“I think you go through nearly all of their tries and most of them originated from us with the ball,” he said.
“So, we contribute a lot to that and also to be fair, their pressure was excellent and they...really tore through us.
“The Highlanders were very clinical in what they did.
“They came and they kicked really well, really strong defensively, played really good field position, put us under immense pressure on both sides of the ball and really strangled us in the end.”
The one silver lining to come out of the game for the Rebels was the performance of replacement lock Dominic Day, who replaced Steve Cummins (concussion) just two minutes into the game.
Day had been working his way back from injury and lasted just 30 seconds in his Super Rugby debut last weekend before a concussion ended his night against the Waratahs.
The Rebels head into a bye week, with a mini-break over the weekend, before facing the Brumbies in a fortnight’s time to kick off eight straight matches.