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'That would have killed me': Why Blues head coach MacDonald was finally relieved

By Ben Smith
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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The Blues 32-20 win over the Highlanders went over 90-minutes of play as both sides searched for an extra try that would have given them a bonus point.

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For the Blues, another five pointer would have given them the three-try bonus point while the Highlanders were after a losing bonus point.

“We were pretty keen, there was an opportunity for us to try and grab a bonus point and them to grab one as well and both teams didn’t want to let it go, did they?” MacDonald said in the post-match press conference.

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However, this week’s extra ten minutes were pleasant for head coach Leon MacDonald who has endured two restless finishes over the previous fortnight.

The Blues squandered a 32-14 lead against the Hurricanes in the final ten minutes to be pipped 33-32 in Auckland before almost capitulating against the Chiefs after the buzzer with two penalties in a row that gave Bryn Gatland a chance to steal another win.

MacDonald said the final ten minutes ‘have been hard to watch’ this year and that if the game had been on the line for a third time in a row it ‘would have killed’ him.

“Good for our subs who came on late to get some game time but the guys who had to play 80, the last 10 minutes for the Blues this year have been hard to watch from the coaches stand.

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“I’m just glad the game wasn’t on the line the last 10 minutes because that would have killed me.”

The Blues were sloppy in the first half as the plucky Highlanders built a 13-3 halftime lead but the home side came out quickly to assert dominance with two tries inside the first ten minutes to take the lead back.

Rieko Ioane scored in the 63rd minute when the Blues recovered a spilled bomb through makeshift second five Bryce Heem, who rounded the corner of the Highlanders’ defence before finding an offload back inside to the All Blacks centre.

Ioane’s try put the Blues in further control at 25-13, a position that became a little uncomfortable when Shannon Frizell stormed over to close the gap to 25-20. A try from close range by Perofeta with two minutes to go was able to put MacDonald at ease.

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“I think the set-piece was a lot tidier,” MacDonald said of the improved second half effort, while also crediting his new second five Bryce Heem.

“There was a lot of decisions at scrum time going both ways. The lineout wasn’t quite on. In the second half, I thought we mauled well, we were able to play off the top well and our scrum was solid and we were able to play off the back of that and generally get over the gain line.”

“I thought Bryce, he had a really good game at 12, given that he’s moved in this week as well. He missed training yesterday and that didn’t help so he hasn’t had a lot of reps in there so all those sorts of things combined and led to us being a bit clumpy but I thought generally once we did get our game going in the second half we were fine.”

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