Super Rugby 2019: Belief is high as Blues snap New Zealand losing streak

Blues coach Leon MacDonald feels his squad is capable of contesting for a playoff spot after they snapped their three-year winless streak against New Zealand opposition on Friday night.

Led by winger Rieko Ioane, the Blues outscored the Highlanders four tries to two to claim a 33-26 win in Auckland, which brings an end to their horrid 20 game run without a win against Kiwi teams.

While the result still leaves the Blues in fourth in the New Zealand conference, they now trail the third-placed Highlanders by three points and could leapfrog them next week if they get a result against the Stormers.

What was most impressive about the win was that the Blues were able to finish the game strong. In the past, the Auckland side has faded in the closing stages, but this time was different as they came from behind in the final 10 minutes to win.

The Blues now have back-to-back wins after losing their first three games of the season, and MacDonald knows the next few weeks will be crucial if they are going to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

Blues coach Leon MacDonald.
Blues coach Leon MacDonald. Photo credit: Getty

"They're pretty happy in the sheds as you can imagine," said MacDonald. "It's a nice win to get given the recent history and what's happened this season as well.

"The belief is definitely bubbling away. It came out through our leaders this week leading into this game, a real expectation and determination to nail this game. Getting the win this will only help that.

"We feel like we're right in the hunt with New Zealand teams. It's a tough competition, we'll enjoy tonight and realise really quickly we've got another big challenge next week with the Stormers.

"There was enough in there to suggest we are starting to really understand what we're trying to do on the field in terms of our game."

MacDonald praised the bench for providing the impact needed to secure the win.

Reserve lock Patrick Tuipulotu scored the go-ahead try to put the Blues back in front with six minutes remaining before replacement first-five Otere Black calmly slotted a penalty to put the result beyond doubt.;

"We were in an arm-wrestle right through, and there were ebbs and flows, as we expected.

"I thought the bench at the end came on and showed a lot of composure and although it wasn't perfect, a couple of key scrums and some execution at the end got us home."

"It's an area we haven't been great at – close to their line and finishing off and scoring.

"A lot of it is mindset and the will to get over that line. There were some big carries. I thought Patrick was outstanding in that area and all the forwards really rolled their sleeves up in that part of the field as well."


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