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Super Rugby round 11
Blackadder laments lack of intensity
ESPN Staff
April 29, 2013
The Rebels' James O'Connor offloads the ball in a tackle from the Crusaders' Sam Whitelock, Crusaders v Melbourne Rebels, Super Rugby, AMI Stadium, Christchurch, April 28, 2013
James O'Connor was inspirational for the Rebels © Getty Images
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Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder criticised the application and intensity of his players after they escaped with victory over Melbourne Rebels at AMI Park on Sunday afternoon.

The Rebels led 26-21 late in the game, having trailed 12-0 early, but the seven-time Super Rugby champions, with a major boost from the replacements bench, stepped up in the final quarter to avoid the embarrassment of a second successive loss to the Rebels and also a second successive defeat by Australian strugglers after losing to Western Force; but for the place-kicking of Tom Taylor and scrum penalties the Crusaders would have been in real trouble.

"We came second at the breakdown," Blackadder said after the game on Fairfax NZ News. "They got the reward for the work they did there and we couldn't get our hands on the ball. Suddenly, with 15 minutes remaining, there was a lot more fight and energy with our carries and the breakdown work was really good - that part was missing for the majority of the game."

Blackadder could not explain why the Crusaders lacked intensity for much of the match, particularly in defence, saying "it can only be mental application". He said: "I don't think I have seen so many missed tackles and guys just walking straight through our defensive line. It was cumbersome, it was just not good enough. Guys just have to take responsibility and say it is not good enough."

Rebels head coach Damien Hill, meanwhile, rued indiscipline from his team in the latter stages of the match. "The last 15 minutes, we really didn't get the possession that we had been having and some back to back penalties to them meant the momentum started to change," Hill said. "At this level, against a team like that, it only takes a missed tackle here or a knock on there and they are on the front foot.

"In saying that, I'm exceptionally proud of the performance the boys put in tonight. I'm bitterly disappointed we weren't able to come away with the win for our supporters back home but the effort is definitely there. We need to continually work and fine tune the discipline, which is improving, and our execution, but the team stuck to the game plan very well.

"I am confident no matter who we are playing in this competition that if we put our game together we are exceptional competitors. We just need to work on the 5 or 10% to turn close losses into wins."

James O'Connor couldn't hide the disappointment of coming so close and leaving without the win. "We controlled that game and played to our structures, but in the last 20 minutes a! couple of simple errors cost us," he said. "Quality sides like the Crusaders are always going to make you pay, and they win the close ones. That's the difference between a champion team and teams that are growing and earning experience. There is definitely a belief there and the boys know that we almost did enough, but have to finish it better."

The Rebels made the Crusaders fight for 80 minutes (video available only in Australia)
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand
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