Highlanders happy but looking ahead

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Lynn McConnell     16 Apr 2018     Getty Images

They travel to Auckland to play the Blues on Friday before heading to South Africa where they meet the Bulls and Sharks.


Coach Aaron Mauger said it had been a tough battle and had played out along the ways they had expected in their analysis of the Brumbies.

Their scrum had been very good and had given them a foothold in the game but he said he was pleased with the way the Highlanders stuck at their task.

"I thought we managed the game well," he said.

Under assault from the Brumbies in the third quarter, the Highlanders had defended well and they hadn't been stressed at all. And when the chance came, a Waisake Naholo intercept, the value of try-scoring defence was obvious.

"The pleasing thing about that was we trusted each other and you could see the energy was really good and we created that opportunity through good pressure.

"Some might say that the pressure was on us when we were defending with 14, but I thought we applied the pressure back on the Brumbies and forced them into an error and it was nice to see Waisake running 80m down the sideline to score that try," he said.
That was a credit to the work of the defensive group after they had leaked points against the Hurricanes and Chiefs and it had been a step up from those performances.

There had also been some delight with captain and fullback Ben Smith getting on the scoreboard for the first time this year, with two tries, the first of which had been pleasing because of the way space had been utilised to effect on attack.

Mauger was expecting a tough encounter with the Blues on Friday night in Auckland before the side heads to South Africa for two games, something he was looking forward to with the group able to spend good time together.

The first half had been competitive, the two sides were playing different types of game but he felt the Highlanders were in control at the turn.

"Their set-piece allowed them to stay in the game but I thought we adjusted fairly well at half-time," he said.

The substitutes made during the second half, especially the front-rowers, had managed to negate the strength of the Brumbies' front row and cancelled that out for the rest of the game.