Blues coach Leon MacDonald isn't panicking, he's just disappointed.

His team were part of a scintillating back-and-forth battle against the Crusaders at Eden Park, where the calibre of rugby on display was of the highest quality.

Despite their enormous second-half advantage in territory and possession, the Blues couldn't find the killer blow they needed to edge their noses back in front. 

The Crusaders defence scrambled superbly to keep their line clean, forcing the ball loose over to deny two tries that may have swung the 34-28 result in the Blues' favour.

MacDonald has expressed pride in the manner his troops responded at halftime.

"It was a great old game," he said. "We had our opportunities.

"I thought we came out of the sheds at halftime under a lot of pressure early, with 13 men and lost momentum. 

"To regroup and come back, show spirit and guts and character and all but take it, just losing the ball over the line a couple of times... just some little moments that just didn't quite go our way."

While he couldn't deny the result - their second loss of the season - hurt, MacDoanld insists the foundation of a great side remains and there are reasons to be encouraged.

"Obviously, bitterly disappointed not to get the win, but I just feel like we are getting better," he explained. "I can see it in the way we're training, I can see it in the way the leaders are stepping up throughout the week and there's still plenty of good stuff that we can be proud of there.

"We got over a couple of times, but obviously putting the ball down was an issue for us. That's what these games are about and those big moments. 

"We were able to grab a couple of big moments last year when we played them away, but we weren't able to do it this game."

Led by another dynamic display by All Blacks wing Mark Telea, the Blues backline contributed its share to arguably the game of the season so far, which MacDonald identifies as one of the most pleasing areas of improvement from the previous loss to the Brumbies.

"We're definitely not back to the drawingboard," he said. "Some of our attacking play [was great] - we're shifting the ball into space a lot better than we have done.

"I thought we found more space in the way we kicked and passed - that's a positive.

"I thought our breakdown area was a lot better than it has been the last couple of weeks. That's an area we've been working hard on.

"If we can keep getting good growth in those areas, I think we're going to cause a lot of trouble to a lot of teams."

Injuries to props Alex Hodgman (suspected dislocated shoulder) and Jordan Lay (knee) will further test the squad's front row depth, with All Black Ofa Tuungafasi (concussion) already out.

"Today was one of those days where we didn't quite get the rub of the green in a few little areas," MacDonald added.  

"We're not making excuses about that, because we know we create our own luck. If we were a bit better we could've won that game.

"We just start again. We've got to go again and just keep committing to getting better.

"We are growing every week."

They'll have a chance to halt their two-game losing skid against Western Force at Eden Park next Sunday.

Join us at 3:30pm Sunday for live updates of the Highlanders v Force Super Rugby Pacific clash

2023-03-19T00:01:27Z dg43tfdfdgfd