Tana Umaga did not say it in as many words, but he put the blame on the Counties Manukau forwards for last night's dismal 55-16 loss to Wellington in Pukekohe.
The coach said his side had always been known for scoring spectacular tries and great back play, but success this year needed to be built around the forwards, and that was where the Steelers were lacking against the Lions.
"It was a very tough first-up game, but it was something we were expecting," the former All Blacks captain said.
"We knew that they would come out fizzing; they've got some pretty good players. They gave us a lesson on what it is to play at this level.
"What we've tried to bring to our game is a bit of intensity to our forward play, and we just didn't have that.
"It's something that we need to find and find it quickly. It is about pushing the right buttons for some of the players.
"Our captain [No 8 Fritz Lee] tried valiantly all night, but he needed some guys to help him out."
Counties' cause was not helped by TJ Perenara, Jeremy Thrush and Dane Coles being released by the All Blacks to play in this game.
Umaga said his heart did not sink when he heard what the Wellington team would be. Rather, he hoped his players would rise to the challenge.
"The great thing about the competition in our country is that we can have guys playing for a club one week and against a potential All Black the next," he said.
"That's what keeps our players strong and it keeps them grounded as to where they need to get to."
Umaga said there were flashes of nice play from the Steelers at ECOLight Stadium, but there needed to be more of them.
"Once we did have our structure and game plan going we looked good," he said.
"We got some momentum and built some phases, but they were just too few and far between to really challenge teams like Wellington.
"At this level, the ball is gold, and if we can control that we can control the game, and we didn't have that."
Next up for Counties is North Harbour in Albany next Thursday in what should be an easier proposition, and it will also mark hooker Hika Elliot's debut for the province.
"It will be great for us, and coming in after we've lost a game like this, his experience will no doubt be valuable to us," Umaga said.
"We can't put it all on his shoulders, and he's just one man, but it's good that we'll have a player of his calibre available."
- © Fairfax NZ News