Super Rugby Pacific: Blues coach Leon MacDonald frustrated after poor set-piece performance costs his side the title

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 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Blues head coach Leon MacDonald said that his side couldn’t get going in the Super Rugby Pacific final as the Crusaders destroyed their lineout.

MacDonald’s men fell short to the Crusaders in Saturday’s clash, going down 21-7 as the Christchurch side outclassed the Blues at Eden Park in Auckland.

Crusaders won set-piece battle

The Blues had been the best team of the season, finishing top of the table and securing a home final, but it was not to be on the night, with MacDonald believing the Crusaders dominated the key areas.

“We encountered a very good Crusaders side who applied a lot of pressure and we were just unable get our game going which was hugely frustrating,” MacDonald told Stuff. “They were able to steal a lot of our lineout ball and put pressure on at scrum and breakdown – they’re three key areas to winning any game, let alone a final.

“We were unable to play the way we wanted to play. They’ve been in a few finals, they know how to do it well, and they did.”

The Blues head coach said the lineout was completely dominated by the Crusaders, making it hard for his side to get going.

“They got up well. It was like they had our playbook there,” he added. “They were reading our play and causing a lot of trouble there. We tried variations, and were just unable to get quality ball to launch off. The scrum was similar. We always felt we were living off scraps, and unable to apply any sort of pressure through a positive kicking game.

“They were able to cut off our supply, and we were scrambling, just trying to hang in there and hope that at some point momentum would swing. We had a couple of opportunities in the second half to grab it, but that breakdown pressure they were applying meant we were unable to make the most of them.”

It is a disappointing end to the season for the Blues, and MacDonald lamented the lineout failure further before reflecting on what has been a positive campaign.

“Ten missed lineouts is hard to live off. It’s as simple as that – and scrum penalties etc. We weren’t able to get any momentum which is hugely disputing given it happened in the final. That aside, we can still be proud of what was a bloody good season for the Blues – a 15-2 record was good, we’ve made some progress but tonight shows there’s still some work to be done.”

Blues captain on the night, Beauden Barrett, said it was a frustrating game and that the Crusaders prevented them from playing their own game.

“They had a strategy to sort us out at set-piece time, and certainly put us under a lot of pressure and spoiled our flow and tempo that we like to play with. It was frustrating we couldn’t get into our game, and whenever we did get going it was not on our terms.”

READ MORE: Super Rugby Pacific: Crusaders crowned champions after victory over Blues in final

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