Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie was full of praise for the Highlanders after his side were knocked out of the Super Rugby Finals Series.
The 2012 and 2013 champions finished second best at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin to miss out on the semi-finals.
Stressing that his team did too much in the middle of the field and admitting the Highlanders had done their homework, Rennie was still graceful in defeat.
"They put us under a fair bit of pressure and we overdid trying to go through the middle, and just trying to get a bit of balance to our game," Rennie told Stuff.
"We trained for that all week but didn't make enough shifts in that area. We did have chances if we had spread it after corralling them in the middle – but we tended to go up the middle again and ran into their numbers.
"That was a bit frustrating but the Highlanders did a good job of defending us.
"They scored a couple of slick tries from scrums, where we should have done a better job defending them to be honest," Rennie lamented. But you have to take your hat off to them, they were very clinical."
Rennie's main disappointment was finishing the season earlier than hoped and saying goodbye to a number of stars in the process, including Michael Fitzgerald, Matt Symon, Tom Marshall and Ben Tameifuna.
"It's a disappointing way to finish, especially for the calibre of players we have got leaving. Guys like Liam Messam and those six or seven or eight players who are going," added Rennie.
"It would have been nice to give them a decent send-off. But you have to give it to the Highlanders, they have had the wood on us all year and are a really good side."