Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has offered his frank assessment on the Blues after his side handed the Auckland franchise their second loss of the year on Friday night.
The Blues were once again outclassed by the defending champions, falling to a 25-8 thrashing at Eden Park – their 26th loss in their last 29 Kiwi derbies and 11th straight defeat to the Crusaders.
Speaking to Newstalk ZB's Martin Devlin, Robertson admitted that the Blues weren't as "tough" as they were when the two sides met at the start of last season, when Leon MacDonald first took over as head coach of the Blues.
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"I'm sure he (MacDonald) would have hoped to have a better start to the season because our game that we played them in round one last year, we felt they were a lot tougher in a lot of areas," Robertson said. "But he's a great coach, he'll get them better and better.
"What he'll be disappointed with is the ability not to execute at lineouts and key scrum times. He's got enough firepower, and it showed last week when they get those right and are patient enough they can execute.
"I think he'll be disappointed because they made so much progress and there were a lot of games last year that they didn't quite get. So a lot of leadership work and belief in their group is the next step for him."
The Crusaders looked better in almost every department, dominating the set pieces, defending with typical resilience and clinically taking their chances, while the Blues squandered theirs.
After the game, MacDonald was quick to admit that there was a lot of work to do this season.
"It won't be pretty watching [the Crusaders performance] on the video, but we're going to have to suck this one up," MacDonald said. "Two weeks together in South Africa will be good. We can spend a lot more time than we probably can at home looking at these things."
MacDonald even conceded that his side may have taken a step backwards since their bonus point victory over the Waratahs in round two.
"It is a little bit [of a step backwards]," he said. "We felt we had some good momentum in our training week, good energy, and we probably didn't reflect it on the grass.
"The boys are feeling it in the changing-sheds … we just need to get that winning feeling back again."