Blues remain in touching distance of the Crusaders

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For the Blues, the win keeps them in touching distance, four points behind leaders the Crusaders with three games to play, while the Hurricanes remain with only one win and shaping as the first side to drop out of contention.


The Crusaders' upset Friday night loss to the Highlanders not only breathed new life and energy into the competition but also compounded the desperation both sides demonstrated in Auckland.


Blues coach Leon MacDonald said, "All of a sudden, it has opened it right up. They [the Highlanders] must be brimming with confidence, and we've got to travel to Dunedin to take them on at home. And that's going to be a big battle for us.


"We understand how important four points are, and how critical losses are at this time of the season, as we're starting to head to the end."


However, as they head into their second bye, the Blues know they are still in the hunt. But they also know that their next game, in Dunedin against a resurgent Highlanders team, offers more of the same.


MacDonald was happy with the passion and heart displayed by the Blues, especially when they were determined to take the winner's points. And for that, they deserved their break.



But it hadn't been a win built as fluidly as the Blues wanted.


"At times, when we started getting our attack going, started carrying hard, getting our cleans and fastball, we looked really good. When we got that going, I thought we looked dangerous and scored some good tries.


"Our scrum was pretty solid by and large, putting pressure on there. And we wanted to get our big men around the pack, and carry with purpose and show some intent at cleanouts."


MacDonald felt that having achieved that the players were entitled to be happy with their night at the office.


Down on their usual levels of experience in the absence of injured captain Patrick Tuipulotu, the side had responded, MacDonald said, and stand-in leader and flanker Tom Robinson did a 'fantastic' job.


In the race to be considered in the openside flanker's role as a result of captain Sam Cane's injury, Dalton Papalii had a strong game making 15 tackles, securing turnovers at the breakdown and gaining 27 metres with the ball in hand.


MacDonald said Papalii had earned a week off.


"We're stoked with the way Dalton is playing. Every week he puts in big shifts and at seven it's hard to back up week after week. He is on top of his game," he said.