Final shaping as a thriller - MacDonald

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But it looked dicey in the final moments as Brumbies' first five-eighths Noah Lolesio lined up a 40m dropped goal attempt to steal the semifinal as his opposite Beauden Barrett sealed the regular-season game between the two a few weeks back.

 

Coach Leon MacDonald admitted as much afterwards.

 

"It was a bit of an emotional roller-coaster for the coaches in the box, and probably the fans. In finals rugby, one point is enough," he said.

 

"We put pressure on ourselves by making discipline errors. We've got to be better there. Two yellow cards played into their hands, and they took them.

 

MacDonald was delighted with how the Blues performed to be up 20-7 at halftime.

 

Rain over the break led to a change in the way the Brumbies played while holding the Blues scoreless.

 

"They went to the air and got a little bit of reward there, and got a little bit of reward at the maul. And, all of a sudden, we were defending our line."

What had been a show of discipline in denying the Brumbies penalties in the first half by preventing them from kicking to the corners was reversed in the second half.

 

MacDonald did query the honesty of his captain and star player on the night, first five-eighths Beauden Barrett.

 

When getting over the line midway through the half, he was unable to ground the ball for a try.

 

"I thought he was too honest there. I would have liked to have gone upstairs, but he turned the ref away from checking on it. That was a big moment," he said.

 

But there was no issue in the rest of Barrett's play.

 

"He was amazing. His running game, he was kicking off both feet, his short and long passes, kicks in the corner. He was brilliant," he said.

 

"When he's playing with that sort of confidence, everyone around him grows as well. It wasn't a night for the backs, but we played with good endeavour, and he was a big part of that."

 

MacDonald acknowledged the side's defensive effort in the face of the Brumbies' surge. Key tackles were put in by Barrett with fullback Stephen Perofeta and halfback Finlay Christie also contributing. The team had competed and scrambled to hold the Brumbies out.

The final against a Crusaders side looking for their sixth consecutive Super Rugby title would require even more discipline.

 

"This is their [the Crusaders] bread and butter. They love finals rugby. You couldn't script it any better," he said.

 

"We have to play as well as we know we can, as well as we did in the first half. We need to be massive defensively, disciplined, the stuff that wins you finals.

 

"You can't take your foot off the throat, and that was a good lesson for us. One error turned the momentum of the game, and just like that, we went from being the dominant team to the one being dominated."

 

MacDonald said the final was shaping as a thriller, and he was hopeful the weather would have improved because the two teams liked to use the ball.

 

"The last game was a cracker [the Blues won in Christchurch 27-23]. If we can fill the stadium, and it's anything like the last game, it's going to be one hell of an event."

 

The long rivalry between the two would ensure it would be competitive.

 

"In my time at the Crusaders, we loved to come here and play the Blues at Eden Park, and I know the boys in the Blues here have a similar feeling around the Crusaders," he said.

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