Apart from the side's fitness bringing a win in the final moments, there was exposure for many of the younger squad members before the All Blacks made their returns.
MacDonald said the game lacked cohesion, which was sometimes a feature of pre-season games.
"It's the first time you've played live at the breakdown, and it puts on a little bit more pressure than what we've experienced at training against each other. It was a little bit bumpy at times.
"There was some good stuff at times. I thought, although we weren't perfect, especially around our attack which was a bit messy, we competed hard and put some real pressure on at the breakdown, and I thought our conditioning showed through."
They also had late changes forced through injuries to inside backs Harry Plummer, Sam Nock and Taufa Funaki that did not help the cohesion.
"Jock McKenzie played 80 minutes which was fantastic for the young guy. He's a young guy on the up. Some of his support skills were really good. Some of his line kicks and his goal-kicks were good, and he will take a lot from this game."
All Black Roger Tuivasa-Sheck had been working hard in areas he had received feedback in the contact-tackle area, and MacDonald said he fronted in that department in the game.
"He broke away for that nice try to show he's got genuine pace, but even just watching him around the park, he's organising and bossing and becoming that natural leader.
"He understands the game now whereas this time last year he was looking around trying to work out where he was supposed to stand. There's some good signs there early on."
MacDonald said Patrick Tuipulotu's mobility and fitness had impressed him when he had him in the All Blacks XV in Britain and Ireland last year, and his play on Saturday was an extension of that.
"He was quick around the park, and carried hard and was bruising. He was the leader of this group in Dalton's [Papali'i] absence."
The game also gave younger players, some of whom had not played NPC rugby yet, a taste of a higher level, which would help create depth in the squad.
Pre-season fixtures week two:
Hurricanes v Crusaders, Friday 17 February, 5pm, Levin Domain
Highlanders v Moana Pasifika, Friday 17 February, 6pm, Queenstown Recreation Centre, Queenstown
Gallagher Chiefs v Blues, Friday 17 February, 6pm, Navigation Homes Stadium, Pukekohe (LIVE ON SKY SPORT)