Super Rugby 2019: Leon MacDonald admits Blues succumbed to pressure in Brumbies loss

 A dominant set-piece and lineout drive helped the Brumbies seal a well-deserved 26-21 victory over an ill-disciplined Blues outfit in Canberra on Saturday night.

Leon MacDonald's side led early in the match, but the Brumbies made good use of their rolling maul from the lineout, which produced three tries through hooker Folau Fainga'a - the competition's leading try-scorer.

At one point, the Blues gave away 13 penalties in a row, trying to defend their own line, but even then, the Brumbies had to scrap their way to a crucial victory.

Blues coach MacDonald felt his players struggled to cope with the set-piece pressure, which led to them losing their third consecutive game, after a four-match win streak before that.

"The Brumbies, when they found their way, kept putting the pressure on and they didn't relent," MacDonald said. "It was an impressive performance.

"They showed lots of heart and deserved the win. At times, I thought we were going to survive, but they kept attacking with the maul and we were back on our line again.

"We got put under the pump at scrum and maul time, so there is plenty of learning for us to do."

The result leaves the Blues 13th in the Super Rugby standings, but only two points off a playoffs spot with six games remaining.

The Blues burst out of the blocks and scored two tries inside the opening 10 minutes, through centre TJ Faiane and an intercept from Caleb Clarke.

But the lead should have been more, as first-five Otere Black missed two penalty goals and a conversion in the first half.

A yellow card to Blues prop Alex Hodgman gave the Brumbies momentum and the hosts scored two tries before the break, through Fainga'a and James Slipper, to trail 15-12.

Early in the second half, the Blues were down to 14 men once again, when Ofa Tu'ungafasi saw yellow, after a fairly innocuous infringement at a maul.

Fainga'a crossed for his second to put the Brumbies in the lead for the first time.

The Blues then kicked three penalty goals to regain the lead, but with 10 minutes left, Fainga'a scored his third and what proved to be the match-winner.

Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said his team executed perfectly.

"We had a plan around set piece and maul, and I thought our forwards were unbelievable - they just executed to perfection.

"There are going to be games when our outside backs score the tries, but specifically tonight, we wanted to target that area."


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