Two red cards a concern for Blues coach

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Coach Leon MacDonald could breathe easier after making it through the games without serious injuries, but there was frustration that two red cards could impact the side as they prepare to face the Chiefs and Crusaders over the next two weeks.

Prop Nepo Laulala has a three-game suspension, while the outcome for wing Caleb Clarke is unknown while he awaits the result of his case going to the judiciary after one of the more complex head knock protocol rulings.

At the apex of his climb to charge down a kick, his hip impacted on Moana wing Tomasi Alosio's head as he sprinted ahead.

"I feel for Caleb because there's no malice in it – he's genuinely trying to charge the ball down, and here he is on the sidelines. It's a tough call. I'm not disagreeing with the call.

"You could see both sides of the table there. You can understand why they called a red card – there was contact to the head, and it's about player safety, that's important, I understand that.

“Then, you look at Caleb and he is trying to charge the ball down, and he wasn't that far away from getting it. My whole career I've watched players do that, but we haven't seen that sort of contact. It's probably his fault for being so athletic and jumping so high.”

Leon MacDonald

MacDonald said the feedback received from referees would be interesting because Clarke may need to change his technique, as will others who employ a similar style.

"I haven't seen that happen before, and I've watched a lot of rugby. We'll seek some clarification and make sure we can do what we can in terms of controlling it better," he said.

MacDonald said there would be some cases somewhere around the rugby world, and he would like to find them to see what had happened in those instances.

"I heard over the comms [communications], he timed his jump wrong, so I need to understand whether it was too early or too late.

"The referees' hands were nearly tied, but I'm not sure what to say to Caleb. I don't think he was reckless. It was just unfortunate," he said.

At the same time, his faith in the high minutes played out across the week by less experienced forwards like No8 Anton Segner and lock Sam Darry was rewarded.

"There are a lot of takeaways from this period which sets us up nicely as we run into an important two weeks with the Chiefs and Crusaders on the road," he said.

They will also be boosted by the returns of All Blacks Rieko Ioane and Hoskins Sotutu, while prop Karl Tu'inukuafe has returned from back surgery. Beauden Barrett is working through concussion protocols.

Acting head coach for Moana Pasifika Dale MacLeod, who stood in as Aaron Mauger and Filo Tiatia were unable to attend for health reasons, said the loss of the head coaches, and five players before the game, a not a factor in their loss.s

"We felt we just weren't good enough around owning our roles, executing within our system, and, at this level it's so minor you get punished," he said.

"In the 'Canes game, we kept our penalties down around 11, and we're in the fight, and get a win at the end.

"We've got to be better. We also understand a lot of our boys are new to this level.

"We're getting better at playing and absorbing pressure, but we probably left five tries out there. We created enough, but it's our mental fortitude to stay in the fight.

"If we get that right, and create some scoreboard pressure, all of a sudden those penalties aren't coming," he said.


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