'Couldn't script it better': Blues, Crusaders relish Super showdown

·3-min read

Auckland Blues playmaker Beauden Barrett declared it is "the final everyone wanted" as his team and the Canterbury Crusaders set about patching up their wounded Sunday for next weekend's Super Rugby Pacific showdown.

The Blues, who will host the decider, scraped through with a tense 20-19 semi-final win against the ACT Brumbies in Auckland on Saturday, a day after the Crusaders' torrid 20-7 victory over the Waikato Chiefs.

"There's everything to play for so you couldn't script it any better," said Blues coach Leon MacDonald.

It is not only the teams' honour at stake, with MacDonald against his opposite number Scott Robertson for the first time in a final after they won four Super crowns together as players and coaches.

The Crusaders are searching for a 13th title and sixth in six years while the Blues are chasing their fourth championship and first since 2003 when they beat a Crusaders side featuring Robertson and MacDonald.

"There'll be plenty of (emotion) in the media -- especially social media," said Barrett, whose brother Scott captains the Crusaders.

"How well we stay focused and prepare is so critical this week, and not letting any of that external noise divert our attention."

MacDonald, who left his role as assistant coach at the Crusaders to join the Blues in 2019, has already masterminded a 27-23 win over his old team in Christchurch this year but said that counted for little in the final.

- Slog it out -

"This is their bread and butter. They love finals rugby," he said of the Crusaders, where he played in six championship winning sides, including two with Robertson.

"We need to be massive defensively, disciplined, the stuff that wins you finals ... You can't take your foot off the throat, you can't relax.

"In my time at the Crusaders we loved to come here and play the Blues at Eden Park and I know the boys in the Blues here have a similar feeling around the Crusaders," he added.

"There will be a little bit of feeling, emotion and two good teams are going to slog it out."

The Crusaders have the pedigree to handle big occasions and Robertson was full of praise for the "heart" of his players who managed a Super Rugby tackle record in excess of 220 -- and more than 250 by some counts -- to hold out the Chiefs.

"We broke our own record," he said.

The Chiefs "had scored two or three tries for certain and then all of a sudden there's this massive tackle and someone's on the ball." he added. "We just kept getting up for each other. It was a game built on effort and care."

The Crusaders are already without injured flanker Ethan Blackadder, Sam Whitelock is marginal with a thumb injury, Pablo Matera faces a disciplinary hearing and several other players are sore from the bruising Chiefs' encounter.

But Robertson, known for his outwardly laid-back demeanour, preferred to look at the positives.

"The one good thing about playing Friday is we're banged up, you don't make 200 odd tackles and not have a good casualty ward, so we'll rest up, and freshen up, and go again," he said.

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