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Waikato still not happy after win

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Sportal.co.nz     30 Aug 2010     Getty Images

The 39-3 victory on Saturday, over a weakened and poor Counties outfit, snapped a two-game losing run but the margin could have been much greater had Waikato's execution and last-pass-options been precise.

A relieved Waikato coach Chris Gibbes praised his side's ability to front under pressure while acknowledging there were large strides to be made with eight rounds remaining.

"In terms of where we want our game to be, we're not there yet. We've shown glimpses over the last few weeks," Gibbes said.

"The ball we did have we used really well and we played at the right end of the park. They're a good side. We're really stoked with what we we're able to achieve as a team. The pressure was on obviously. I'm really impressed with the way we turned up."

Waikato held a fortunate 7-3 lead at the interval, with only scrambling defence saving them from a potential deficit. But two tries within four minutes of the restart took the wind out of a deflated Counties that never recovered.

Mooloo hooker Alde de Malmanche scored the sole first-half try, he was impressed with the go-forward platform the pack laid but said the lineout drive 'was a shambles' and a lack of composure led to panic when scoring chances were presented.

The visitors sorely missed steady and influential pivot Baden Kerr and Tana Umaga, who reverted to the coaching box.

Kerr is the rudder that steers a reviving Counties' ship but he was ruled out on the morning of the match with a lower back injury, which meant a late call up – and debut - off the bench for 20-year-old James Semple.

Explosive Counties wing Sherwin Stowers said Kerr's exclusion was a 'crucial loss'.

"We missed his direction out there," he admitted.

Counties coach Milton Haig described his problematic No.10 position as a 'poisoned chalice' as he had lost two playmakers this year. He was confident Kerr would be back for next week's match against Tasman.

Stowers has pushed his claims for a Super Rugby contract this season, but this was not his finest day. Not because he made mistakes, but because his side was dominated up front and he saw little ball, and what he did receive was on the back-foot.

"You've got to play for 80 minutes, not 40," he said frustrated. "We had them in the first-half. There was a couple of tries we should have got but credit to Waikato they were real staunch on their line. We didn't bar-up in the second-half.

"Every team goes through this during the season. We'll have to go back home and redeem ourselves next week."

Haig, too, had belief this was a one-off performance. He had noticed Counties body language was off in the week's preparation but said it was part of the learning process for his young side. It was imperative with a five-day turnaround to reflect and refocus eagerly.

"You don't want to drop one at any stage, but we're still in the hunt for that top seven. It's important we move on from this pretty quickly," Haig said.

Counties (15) remain two points ahead of Waikato (13) despite both sides sharing a three-win, two-loss record.