Super Rugby Aotearoa: Leon MacDonald felt Blues close to Crusaders in loss

Blues coach Leon MacDonald didnt feel there was much difference between his team and the Crusaders on Sunday, despite losing 43-27 at Eden Park.
The loss was the Blues first of the season and put a dent in the suggestion that theyre now an equal to the Crusaders in Super Rugby Aotearoa.

However, MacDonald said after the game he felt his team competed with the Crusaders in most areas.

It was four tries each, MacDonald said.

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Im definitely not blaming the referee, but a couple of those penalties, Im looking at them, thinking they were really tough.

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Leon MacDonald didn't feel there was too much between the Blues and Crusaders at Eden Park on Sunday.

The scrums had good parity, we contested well around the tackle breakdown area, we were able to create space, theres a lot to be happy and excited about. But weve got to be better than what we were, because ultimately the scoreboard reflects a dominant victory to them.

So theres enough for us to take away, to feel optimistic around how were tracking and how were playing and if we were beat up in a lot of those areas Id feel differently, but I dont think we were.

With the Crusaders having now played all the other teams in Super Rugby Aotearoa this season and defeated each of them, theyre clearly setting the benchmark this season.

Already it looks like the other four teams are battling it out for a chance to play them in the final.

Despite this loss, MacDonald believes his team are not a million miles away from the Crusaders.

I definitely dont, he said.

Hannah Peters/Getty Images
The Crusaders' Leicester Faingaanuku gets past two Blues defenders.

I think most of the stats would be pretty equal. The discipline wasnt, they were better than us.

Wed been really good with discipline up to now and thats the first game that weve got on the wrong side of the ledger around the discipline and thats disappointing for us.

But overall, there were a lot of areas in the game where we felt we were competing well.

Although both teams scored tries, it was the boot of Richie Mounga that was the difference, as he kicked five penalties and four conversions.

Obviously discipline is key to any of these games, MacDonald said.

We talk a lot about controlling the game and you generally do that when youve got the ball in your hand and youre going forward and you get those calls.

They hit us scrambling a bit on defence at times, were able to pull penalties and accumulate points every time they entered our half.

"That was obviously disappointing, we were able to match them for tries, but ultimately our discipline was the difference.

The Blues were down 17-8 at the break and at that point MacDonald felt his team werent playing as well as they could have.

There were some opportunities in that first half, he said.

We had that scrum moment where we were going back and forth with penalties and there was a real testing out period.

We had them under the pump and ended up getting penalised. That was a big moment for us and there were a couple of moments that didnt go our way.

"Going into the halftime break we talked about it that we hadnt really played a lot of rugby and we wanted to play a lot more in the second half.

"I thought when we came out they probably started better, by getting some penalties and kicking points. We rolled the bench on and by the time we got to play, it was probably too late.


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