Super Rugby Pacific: Leon MacDonald wants Blues to step it up against the Crusaders

Blues coach Leon MacDonald looks on Credit: Alamy
Blues coach Leon MacDonald looks on Credit: Alamy

Blues head coach Leon MacDonald is happy with how his team is trending but feels they need to take it a step further against the Crusaders this weekend.

The two teams will meet at Eden Park for the first time since last season’s final, and the hosts come into the clash winning two of their opening three games.

Next level required

MacDonald’s side downed a spirited Hurricanes team 25-19 last weekend, and whilst the coach is happy with the win, he knows they will need to be better against the defending champions.

“We’re in round three, and as long as we continue to get better, you’ve got to be happy,” MacDonald told Stuff.

“We have to be better against the Crusaders. I think we were better [against the Hurricanes] than we were against the Brumbies in a lot of areas. Getting our kicking balance is going to be really important this week as well.”

Blues fly-half Beauden Barrett has been kicking more out of hand and showed some poor touches off the boot against the Hurricanes, but MacDonald feels that was due to the pressure the whole team was under.

”In the first half, he kicked really well, applied pressure, and we had good control of the game,” he said.

“In the second half across the board, our game drivers didn’t kick as accurately, and we felt under pressure. We weren’t getting quality ball… so a lot of the second-half kicks weren’t the type he’d be wanting to make.”

MacDonald was happy with a win against their New Zealand rivals despite some difficulties faced in the clash.

“It was a tough week, with a short turnaround. We started well, played smart and accurate in the first half, and then we let them in the game in the second half. There was some good stuff, and some other pieces, but generally the performance was better than last week,” he said.

“We’ll take any win in this competition, and away wins against New Zealand teams are to be treasured.”

The Crusaders have had a poor start for their standards, only winning one from their opening three, including an historic loss to the Fijian Drua last time out.

A big moment for the Fijian Drua

The Blues boss feels the win in Lautoka was a big step for the Drua and Fiji’s influence on the competition.

“It’s exciting. It’s what people want to see – upsets, close games, big battles,” he said.

“The Drua in Lautoka, Suva or wherever, they’re a tough battle. They could have won twice there last year against New Zealand teams, so it’s no surprise they’ve picked up a win early, and that’s good for the competition.

“I think it’s great that games are tight. Last year we had to scrape through a lot of games, and nothing is different this year. We’re in a scrap, and teams are well-organised, fit and hungry.”

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