McGahan looking for preseason positives

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

Melbourne Rebels coach Tony McGahan did not cut a forlorn figure after his team’s second trial loss in as many weeks last night.

Rather than dwelling on some glaring weaknesses in his team’s performance, McGahan searched for positives ahead of his team’s Super Rugby opener against the Auckland Blues at AAMI Park next Thursday.

The Rebels dropped far too much ball, just as they did in their 27-5 trial loss to the Western Force last Monday, were outpointed physically at the breakdown and completely outclassed at scrum time - a recipe for disaster if there ever was one.

Jackson Garden-Bachop is finding his feet with the Rebels. Photo: WalmsleyThe lack of continuity in attack saw game breakers such as Sefa Naivalu barely break a sweat outside of his explosive 50 metre individual effort for Melbourne’s only try.

“It was a great last trial for both sides I thought - they were really hard at the ball for the first 50 to 60 minutes,” McGahan said.

“The Reds obviously dominated around the set piece - in particular around the scrum - and that made it really difficult to have any sort of attacking weapon or get any sort of momentum in that second half so I think both sides got a lot out of it.

“No injuries so we will march into Round 1.”

Kiwi flyhalf Jackson Garden-Bachop and scrumhalf Nic Stirzaker are yet to completely click with the limited front-foot ball they have had in Melbourne’s two trials but the 22-year-old rookie looks to have earned first crack at 10 ahead of Jack Debreczeni.

“What he (Garden-Bachop) had within the first 40 looked positive - he still has some work to go - it’s a big step up to Super Rugby but we thought he had some more positive touches and we will continue to see how he goes,” McGahan said.

The Reds dominated the Rebels in the scrum at Ballymore. Photo: WalmsleyOn the scrum, which was mauled by the Reds' starting front row and its replacement, McGahan emphasised that it must be better come Thursday week.

“Obviously, when you’re losing and getting dominated in any particular area it’s a concern but we will go back, get that fixed and get it ready to go,” he said.

McGahan remains hopeful Marika Koroibete will be fit and firing in eight days but said he will be properly assessed once the squad returns to Melbourne tomorrow.

The Rebels take on the Blues in their opening Super Rugby match on Thursday February 23.