Super Rugby Aotearoa: Discipline, execution let Blues down in Highlanders defeat - coach Leon MacDonald

  • 17/04/2021

Blues coach Leon MacDonald has been frank and honest about his side following their disappointing 35-29 defeat to the Highlanders on Friday.  

The Blues came into the contest with an opportunity to move them a step closer to the Super Rugby Aotearoa final but they were their own worst enemy for most of the contest.

A lack of discipline and failure to capitalise on opportunities cost MacDonald's side, as the door is now wide open in the battle for second place with the Blues, Chiefs and 'Landers only separated by three points. 

Discipline was a huge factor in the contest with the Blues losing Hoskins Sotutu to the sin bin for 10 minutes for what looked like cynical professional foul, while prop Alex Hodgman was sent off for a blatant shoulder charge to the head. 

"I'll have to have an honest conversation with Hoskins to see if it was deliberate, because if it was deliberate then that's just not on," MacDonald said.

"If he didn't know what was going on it's one of those ones you just have to suck up but only he'll know and we'll find out in time."

The Auckland side wasn't short on chances but a lack of patience and poor execution was the difference.

All Blacks wing Caleb Clark was back to his barnstorming best as he turned in his best performance of the season, but his teammates couldn't capitalise on his two line breaks and 117 run metres. 

"We were making line breaks and weren't getting enough support around the ball," MacDonald added. "We practise that a lot so I'm not sure why that was tonight. 

"Caleb [Clarke] had a good game and bounced back into some form, and guys like Rieko [Ioane] were getting through the line.

"But passes were being pushed for whatever reason, or we're not able to clear a ball from the ruck.

"These are things we've spoken about in the past so for that to creep back in was frustrating, and I know the players are frustrated with themselves."

Things don't get any easier for the Blues when they take on four-time defending champions and league leaders the Crusaders in Christchurch, and MacDonald will hope he'll have their captain available for the clash. 

"He got a bit of a head knock at the start," MacDonald said. "He's been an inspirational leader for us and to lose his early was a bit of a blow. So, hopefully he's OK for next week [against the Crusaders].

"We're still in the game. This is a tough comp. Anybody can beat anybody and we still we're good enough to challenge."

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