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Luke Jacobson hitting all the right notes for All Blacks recall but Chiefs coach still has one frustration

By Tom Vinicombe

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Luke Jacobson must have one hand on an All Blacks jersey after another statement performance for the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday evening.

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Jacobson was arguably his side’s top performer in their significant 40-19 win over the Brumbies, scoring two tries and almost setting up a third for the Super Rugby Aotearoa finalists.

With the likes of the Hurricanes and Blues scoring bonus point wins in earlier matches, the Chiefs needed a win to ensure they’d stay in the hunt for a spot in the finals and they did it in comprehensive fashion, nabbing a bonus point of their own.

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Jacobson finished the match as the Chiefs’ biggest metre-eater in the forwards, accruing 84 metres with ball in hand. That figure was boosted by two line breaks, while he also beat four defenders and made 16 carries – five more than the Chiefs’ next best, the likes of Anton Lienert-Brown, Damian McKenzie and Samisoni Taukei’aho.

Coach Clayton McMillan was complimentary of his number 8’s contribution in the Chiefs’ winning effort following the match.

“I thought he was outstanding,” he said. “He’s been good all year, hasn’t he? Some games when he’s been a little bit quiet, the ball just hasn’t gone his way, but he showed a clean pair of heels at times today.”

McMillan did have one gripe with the two-test All Black, however.

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With time almost up on the clock in the first half, Jacobson made an excellent break on attack and a short pass to captain Brad Weber would’ve resulted in a guaranteed try for the Chiefs.

The pass, however, was not quite on the money and Weber fluffed the catch – handing the ball back to the Brumbies. The Chiefs went into the break up 19-5 – a margin that the Chiefs themselves have overcome this year, but also one they were ahead by against the Highlanders before eventually losing the match.

McMillan, understandably, was not too happy with the botched try.

“I’ll still hit him up about the shitty pass he tried to give to Webby that should have been a try, so getting better but not perfect,” he said. “You don’t get many opportunities at this level and we’ve harped on all year around not cashing in on opportunities like that.

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“That’s a frustration because a decent pass and Webby goes in and we’re up by 25 points at halftime. That’s a lot different picture than a 15 or 16-point margin. That’s not a lot in the modern game. We just need to nail those to keep advancing our game and being the real consistent contenders that we aspire to be.”

It wasn’t the only opportunity the Chiefs coughed up – but the Chiefs were still able to hold a comfortable lead throughout most of the game. There’s still room for improvement according to the coach, however – and he won’t rest easy in matches until he’s sure his side have the game in the bag.

“[A] statement performance would have been [to nail] the two or three opportunities that we didn’t cash in on but still bloody pleasing to knock off a good Brumbies side, which we needed to do,” McMillan said. “I want it to be like 50 points without five minutes to go, then I can sit back and be pretty content.

“We played some good rugby today. I think our decision making around when and when not to offload was pretty good. We respected the ball a lot more, brought a lot more line speed in our D, which we’ve been pressuring guys to do, and put them on the deck early and create really clear pictures for offside lines, opportunities to have a jackle.

“There were things that we worked on in the week that went really well tonight and that’s the pleasing aspect.”

Jacobson was aided well by his fellow loose forwards, with Liam Messam, Lachlan Boshier and Pita Gus Sowakula all have solid games for the home side. Boshier, in particular, was a hound on defence, notching up 26 tackles throughout the match.

It’s Jacobson who’s nearing ‘certain’ status for All Blacks selection later this year, however, after overcoming a slew of injuries throughout the past 18 months to establish himself as one of the most talented and physical loose forwards in New Zealand.

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Luke Jacobson hitting all the right notes for All Blacks recall but Chiefs coach still has one frustration

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