IKALE Tahi interim head coach Chris Hickey praised his troops for a gallant effort despite their 17-29 loss to the Flying Fijians in the Pacific Nations Cup at Churchill Park yesterday.
Hickey, the former Waratahs Super Rugby coach, said the missed opportunities cost them the game.
He said they failed to keep up the momentum after taking a 14-7 advantage early in the second half. "I was very proud of the effort put in by the boys," Hickey said.
"We had a couple of opportunities that we needed to take but dropped the ball. That was the turning point in the game. The momentum from the error turned in Fiji's favour and they finished strongly at the end."
Ace kicker Kurt Morath kicked three penalties for Tonga in the first half to hand the visitors a slender 9-7 advantage at the break.
Hickey said they did not vary their game plan in the second half.
"We did not need to change much in the second half, just our kicking game," Hickey said.
"But we needed to keep going for 80 minutes. Tonga has a bright future. There are some good young players in the side and the experience in this tournament was good for them in their development and progress.
"It's just a shame that the scoreboard does not reflect the true picture of the game."