Grand Final experience will benefit the Blues in 2023

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Having their 15-game winning streak hit a formidable buffer in the face of a full-scale assault on their lineout, coach Leon MacDonald said playing in a final was a new experience for many players, including the week leading into the game.

 

"It was a big learning curve. The whole week was significantly different dealing with the hype of this game. For some guys, it was a new experience," he said.

 

"If you haven't played a lot of Test rugby, you've got to experience it to be able to learn how to deal with it.

 

"Some guys will have some lessons from this week but, overall, you can't fault the effort throughout this year," he said.

 

The Blues were a young squad who had made progress and showed maturity and leadership beyond their experience. Rugby was a game where you had to take the good with the bad.

 

MacDonald said there was no doubt in his mind the side was capable of winning a competition.

 

 

"It wasn't for us this year, but we'll be back next year, and we'll be pretty hungry," he said.

 

In the final, the Blues came up against a side used to probing evidence to employ in a final. On Saturday, that was in the lineout.

 

MacDonald said, "It was like they had our playbook. They were reading our play and causing a lot of trouble there.

 

"We tried variations, but we were unable to get quality ball to launch off.

 

"The scrum was similar too, so, we felt we were living off scraps and weren't able to apply any form of positive pressure through our kicking game.

 

"Ten missed lineouts is hard to live off – it's as simple as that really. It's hugely disappointing it happened in a final. They knew how to do it well, and they did," he said.

Captain and first five-eighths Beauden Barrett said it was frustrating not being able to play with the flow and tempo that marked their best moments earlier in the campaign.

 

"There was no one clear moment, but a combination of set piece pressure," he said.

 

"We couldn't get into our game. Whenever we did get going, it wasn't on our terms, we were forced to make a bit of stuff up.

 

"We've got to give them credit, their defence was impressive and good enough to win it," he said.

 

It would be a case of sticking together, absorbing the disappointment and returning stronger.

 

"Our record is pretty good this season. It lacks finals experience, and we'll learn a lot from this one.

 

"We can hold our heads up high from the season we've had, but we'll certainly remember this feeling we're feeling right now," he said.