Liam Napier / NZ Herald

Anton Lienert-Brown could not conceal his frustration as the Chiefs fell to a franchise-record seventh straight defeat following their 21-17 loss to the Blues at Eden Park on Sunday afternoon.

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The All Blacks and Chiefs midfielder was adamant No 8 Pita Gus Sowakula scored under a heap of bodies during a late surge for the line and made his feelings clear about Brendon Pickerill opting not to consult his officials to check a possible match-winning try.

“In big moments, we’ve got the TMO for a reason,” Lienert-Brown told Newstalk ZB’s Alex Chapman immediately after the final whistle. “We’ve been on the wrong side of a lot of calls this whole year and when it counted, when we needed it, why not go upstairs? I was a little bit frustrated. In a massive moment I think we’ve got to use the TMO.

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“We are proud, we dug deep, but we didn’t get the win. That’s the frustrating thing. We need to be better in crucial moments. We had 10 minutes there when we needed to score a try and we didn’t. We’ll go away and work on that but I can’t fault the effort.

“These are like test matches and you’ve got to win big moments and we’re on the wrong side of them at the moment.”

On reflection the Chiefs will rue other telling moments after recovering from an early 14-0 deficit such as taking a tap rather than the scrum five metres out from the Blues line with time almost up, and Aaron Cruden’s crossfield kick that fell inches short of Adam Thomson’s grasp.

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Last week in their second half capitulation against the Highlanders in Hamilton the Chiefs were on the wrong side of another call when Damian McKenzie had his try ruled out after the television match official went back further than the specified two phases to find a knock on.

Warren Gatland’s desperate team sure can’t catch a break – their seven losses in succession, which dates back to their defeat to the Hurricanes in Hamilton prior to lockdown, the worst run in their history.

“The referee was very confident he’d made the right call so there’s no point in us dwelling on that we’ve got to accept those decisions at the moment,” Gatland said. “We’re disappointed but I was proud of the effort.

“I’ve made some comments in the past about us being a bit unlucky and then I’ve been accused of being a whinger so I promise you I’m not going to whinge about that, I’ve just got to take that on the chin and start thinking about the Crusaders next week.

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“When you’ve been around coaching a long time it’s not the first time you’ve been in a situation where you’ve dropped a few games. It’s how you respond to that. We’re training well and preparing well. For me it’s about embracing the challenge and making sure I question myself each week about are we doing the right things.”

Gatland indicated Chiefs captain Sam Cane should recover from his knock after finishing the match but wing Solomon Alaimalo is expected to be out for an extended period after popping his shoulder in the process of scoring one of his side’s two tries.

“His shoulder doesn’t look great. He scored the try and Caleb Clarke has come in and tackled him – I don’t think there’s anything in that but it looks like he’s popped his shoulder from that.”

Blues coach Leon MacDonald lamented his side’s ill-discipline – conceding a 15-6 penalty count to continually invite the Chiefs back into the contest – but was thankful to rebound from two defeats and remain in the title hunt.

“If you offered up four wins and two losses at the start of the year to give us an opportunity to still be alive in the competition we’d take that,” MacDonald said. “We’re happy with where we’re sitting. We’ve got two massive games ahead of us. It starts with the Highlanders in Dunedin which is going to be a massive battle for us. Tonight we’ll sit back, have a drink, and take a deep breath.

“The margins are ridiculously small. Without being unkind to the Crusaders they could easily have dropped a couple and we could’ve too. Results could be different for everyone.

“That’s why people are turning up to watch because it’s really interesting rugby.”

This article first appeared on nzherald.co.nz and is republished with permission.

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