Nineteen missed points from the tee cost the Chiefs dear on Friday, in a 25-25 draw with the Cheetahs in Hamilton.
Stephen Donald and Callum Bruce between them missed all five conversions of their side's tries as well as three penalties to cost them the momentum that had been building through the game, while the Cheetahs dug in and took what came their way.
An entertaining opening underlined just how much the Chiefs have missed the classy presence of Sitiveni Sivivatu. Twice in the opening ten minutes he popped up off his wing in the middle with both occasions leading to tries.
The first was only to pass to Tim Nanai-Williams, who also gave further proof of his emerging class with a show and go, followed by an immaculately-timed scoring pass to Colin Bourke. Again he popped up five minutes later, shimmying and half-breaking this time and then releasing the ball right to Dwayne Sweeney for a second.
That was a measure not of the Chiefs' dominance, but of the sheer directionless nature of the Cheetahs' attack. They fought spiritedly up front but as soon as the ball left the pack, gain-line breaks were non-existent.
Naas Olivier's opening penalty for the Cheetahs was sandwiched by those opening two tries while his opposite number Stephen Donald had a night he'll want to forget, missing his opening three kicks at goal. None were easy, but none of the kicks were that well-struck either.
Still, it seemed as though it wouldn't matter. Nanai-Williams' half-break by the Cheetahs line was only stopped by a high tackle and from the advantage, Donald looped a long long pass over a few heads to prop Toby Smith for the third. Donald again failed with the kick, this one a little easier.
Three tries to nil ought to be a healthy lead, with even an opposition try unable to cause consternation, but the effect of those missed kicks was sorely felt after Davon Raubenheimer was driven over from a rolling maul. Olivier converted to make it 15-10 and we had a one-score game.
Both kickers missed penalties as the game settled down into a cat-and-mouse clash between the Cheetahs' forwards and the Chiefs' counter-attackers, but once Donald had missed his fifth, the Chiefs opted to kick penalties - of which there was a steady stream - to the corner.
That yielded immediate benefits, with Hika Elliot driven over from a rolling maul for the bonus-point try. Donald again pushed his conversion, the sixth miss of the night, leaving the scores at 20-10, which is how it was at the break.
The Cheetahs started the second half well. Jongi Nokwe could have scored from a kick through but the bounce of the ball was as awkward as could be imagined at the crucial moment.
Ten minutes into the second half the Cheetahs did score, another forward effort with WP Nel emerging from the pile with the ball and the smile. Olivier converted and the Cheetahs were within three.
Worse followed for the home side. They looked to counter attack, but Jackson Willison spilled the pass and Corne Uys flicked the ball up superbly for Meyer Bosman to storm home and give the visitors a 22-20 lead.
Donald was hauled off at this point, with Callum Bruce taking over the kicking, but he could do nothing to improve the situation, missing from nearly in front of the posts and only 25m out.
But the message from the bench for urgency got through. Some good driving surges were nearly rounded off by Sivivatu on the left, with Messam picking and going from a couple of metres out for the score to make it 25-22. You can probably guess by this point what happened to the conversion.
Olivier replied with a penalty as the visitors refused to lie down to tie the scores, setting up a nervy finale, with the home fans jeering their own side as the number of mistakes just grew and grew.
Eventually, Sivivatu was bundled into touch after another flat backs movement. A fittingly flat end to an uninspiring home performance.
For the Chiefs:
Tries: Bourke, Sweeney, Smith, Elliot, Messam
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Raubenheimer, Nel, Bosman
Cons: Olivier 2
Chiefs: 15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 Dwayne Sweeney, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Callum Bruce, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu ,10 Stephen Donald, 9 Junior Poluleuligaga, 8 Colin Bourke, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Culum Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Nathan White, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Vern Kamo, 17 James McGougan, 18 Kevin O'Neill, 19 Sione Lauaki, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Richard Kahui, 22 Jason Hona.
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Danwel Demas, 13 Corne Uys, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Jongi Nokwe, 10 Naas Olivier, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Devon Raubenheimer, 7 Juan Smith (c), 6 Hendro Scholtz, 5 Barend Pieterse, 4 Izak van der Westhuizen, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Nico Breedt, 19 Philip van der Walt, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Riaan Viljoen, 22 Robert Ebersohn.
Referee: Bryce Lawrence