Stuck in a concussion rut for much of the past 12 months, midfielder Charlie Ngatai has had taking on the British and Irish Lions - whether for the Chiefs or for higher honours - in the back of his mind for a while.
So to get out onto the track against the Lions was a major blessing, he says - even if his Maori All Blacks side couldn't do the business on the night.
Ngatai played the full 80 as the Maori fell 32-10 in Rotorua, strangled at the set-piece and by the Lions' tactical kicking game.
It was the 26-year-old's first 80-minute display since returning from his concussion woes, which had ruled him out of all rugby for almost a year - and threatened to cause more grief when they briefly returned last month.
"It's getting there, my first 80 in a long time but obviously (there's) a bit more to do and more game-time to get better," Ngatai told reporters.
"I sort of loved it out there - they (Lions) only come around every 12 years, so we just wanted to go out there and give it our all.
"The more games you get, the better you get and the more confidence you get, so hopefully in the next month or two I can get a bit more game-time."
Ngatai admitted the Lions had outfoxed his Maori outfit, particularly in the second half as their tight five turned the screws at the set-piece.
Along with six penalty goals from Leigh Halfpenny, a penalty try and close-range Maro Itoje effort were more than enough to secure victory.
Ngatai, who intends to back up for the Chiefs match on Tuesday, said he'd have plenty of tips for his franchise teammates back in Hamilton.
"When you're defending most of the time, it sort of sucks the energy out of you, but that's the way rugby goes sometimes," the one-Test All Black, affiliated to Ngati Porou and Te Whanau-a-Apanui iwi, said.
"I guess we've just got to adapt to the conditions - they kicked well, put us under pressure and we've got to adapt better going forward."
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