Chiefs first half 'right up there' - Cooper

Getty Images

Lynn McConnell     01 Jul 2018     Getty Images

There had been a couple of other occasions when teams had performed similarly and he was stoked to be part of it, he said. Cooper acknowledged the support in the fitness development of the side.


It had been great for the side to embrace the Fijian culture and respond with a performance like they achieved. He felt there was also a benefit from having played there twice before and the side had a lot of support in Fiji.

"We used that with the players, about how much support we had in Suva, and it was like a home game for us," he said.

Cooper said the side, who flew to Suva on Wednesday a day earlier than the Highlanders, had great preparation and had talked about 'starting really hard' with or without the wind.

In relation to the outstanding effort put in by veteran No.8 Liam Messam, Cooper said it was just a case of managing him because he had a massive responsibility within the group and he was leading and Cooper was enjoying working with him.

The scrum dominance achieved during the first half had been a crucial part of the side's assault on the Highlanders and loosehead prop Karl Tu'inukuafe had continued to show his ability and while still learning the game he and propping mate Angus Ta'avao were doing a great job for the side.

Fullback Solomon Alaimalo had been impressive under the high ball while his X factor when running reflected the benefits he had from the June break.

After the game it was a case of waiting to see what happened with the Hurricanes, who lost to the Brumbies, and they would reassess their situation based on that heading into the final two weeks before the playoffs.

It was a case of keeping the ball in hand as they looked to make an impact in the playoffs and they showed their desire by making more use of the opportunities they got in the game than the Highlanders had, although both teams had shown how much better they were when they retained the ball. It was just that by the time the Highlanders sorted their game it was too late to make a scoreboard impact.

It had been frustrating when playing into the wind in the second half not to retain possession to keep the pressure on and the Highlanders had shown what they were capable of when turning the ball over.

Cooper was delighted to get a long stint out of flanker Sam Cane, who had been invaluable when the Highlanders mounted their charge and he had also shifted to No.8 and performed well in that role also.

"It was good to have him back," Cooper said.

On the injury front there had been concern over second five-eighths Charlie Ngatai's ankle before the game but he came through a test and played and was taken off to rest him later in the game while Toni Pulu, who left the field with an injury after scoring two tries, was 'pulling up ok', Cooper said.