Super Rugby Pacific: Leon MacDonald frustrated with Blues loss to Brumbies in the Super Round

Blues coach Leon MacDonald looks on Credit: Alamy
Blues coach Leon MacDonald looks on Credit: Alamy

Blues head coach Leon MacDonald was frustrated with his side’s performance in their 25-20 loss to the Brumbies in the Super Round but believes their issues are fixable.

The fixture against the Brumbies had extra motivation for the Australians, who fell short against the Blues in last season’s semi-final.

Two early yellows

However, it was a poor start from MacDonald’s side, who went down to 13 players within the first 10 minutes as Caleb Clarke and James Lay were sin-binned.

The coach thought his team fought well with two men down and played with more “bounce” in the second period but failed to capitalise.

“Discipline was always going to be a factor, and to give away penalties and end up with two in the bin wasn’t the start we wanted,” MacDonald told Stuff.

“We fought back pretty well, but playing with 13 men in the heat is taxing. In the second half we felt we had a bit more bounce around the park and were trying to keep playing, but critical turnovers at the breakdown or knock-ons at the wrong times kept stopping us from getting what we wanted.

“It was a pretty frustrating performance overall really. I don’t think there were any areas we felt we were exceptional, which was a bit frustrating.”

Maul power

The Blues boss praised the Brumbies maul that cost his team twice and will look for his side to improve on that going forward.

“The Brumbies’ maul is a genuine weapon. They’ve used it against us and everybody else effectively. It was a big focus to nullify that, and we struggled with it. We’d be a bit disappointed in that area,” he said.

“But it is only round two. Although it hurts when you lose any game, we’re realistic that there’s a lot of games ahead and our job now is to bounce back quickly and focus on the areas of the game we need improve on to make sure we can apply more pressure when we’ve got ball in hand.”

MacDonald believes his side needs to find a way to be “more cohesive” after a disappointing start to the season.

“We’re right in the middle of a tough start and our focus now is to get a bit more cohesive, string some more phases together and build pressure with the ball,” he said.

“We weren’t able to do that. Very rarely did we get past 3-4 phases today. Defensively, when we didn’t give away penalties, we looked solid, and applied good pressure. But the pressure valve was released by not rolling away or getting offside. We were our own worst enemies.

“They’re things we can fix, but we’re disappointed we have to go and fix them.”

Fine margins

In Super Rugby Pacific, the margins are so fine, and MacDonald admits his team were not far off, but that is enough to be on the losing side at this level.

“The players have identified it already. They were frustrated with a lot of the [lack of] accuracy of certain plays. We were just a click off in certain areas and the way the Brumbies play, they’re a pressure team, they pressure you in the maul, they pressure you in the air, they pressure you at the breakdown hard and try to force errors, and did that well,” he added.

“We knew it was coming and at times we countered it and at times we didn’t. We just weren’t quite good enough.”

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