Highlanders lock Brad Thorn takes the ball up during his
side's pre-season match against the Crusaders in Motueka
last night. Photo by Nelson Weekly.
The Highlanders came better in the second half but still
fell 28-15 to the Crusaders in Motueka last night.
Wet weather caused many knock-ons and mistakes, and these
only increased the longer the match went on.
The Highlanders were steering down the barrel early in the
second half, trailing 28-3, but they managed to get their
hands on the ball in the final 30 minutes.
The coaches fielded virtually two different teams in each
half and the Highlanders side which played the second 40
minutes would have felt more satisfied.
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph said it was a messy match
which was marred by the weather.
''But they way we played in the second half is the way that
we want to play the game at this level,'' he said.
''In that, we had to be pleased and some guys put their hands
''But they could watch the game in the first half and would
have got frustrated with what they had seen.
''It was hard though for those who went out first. They had
to get a flight out this morning and play straight away.''
The Crusaders scored four tries, two of them from turnovers
when the Highlanders were hard on attack.
A lack of ball security at times by the outside backs would
have been concerning for Joseph, and any more of those when
the competition starts in two weeks will be costly.
The Highlanders' set piece was a mixed bag.
The scrums stood up well against some quality opposition but
the lineouts struggled against some tall timber.
Joseph praised the abrasiveness of some of his players and
there were some big hits put in by both teams.
With the rain falling for most of the game, it was hard to
string many passing movements together and it became trench
warfare the longer the game went on.
The Crusaders had looked assured in the first 20 minutes and
Israel Dagg scored their first try when the Highlanders
coughed up the ball and Dagg found himself unmarked and
scampered 80m to score.
Crusaders winger Nafi Tuitavake then scored right on the cusp
of halftime when another Highlanders attack broke down and he
ran 70m to dot down.
When Kieron Fonotia scored under the posts from a Colin Slade
grubber five minutes into the second half, it looked grim for
the men in blue.
However, as the second half went on, the Highlanders got more
of the ball and hooker Ged Robinson burrowed over after Tom
Franklin stole the lineout. Near the end of the game, centre
Malakai Fekitoa ran a nice line to score.
Fekitoa impressed and flanker Gareth Evans was busy, while
there is plenty of competition in the locking department with
Josh Bekhuis, Franklin and Brad Thorn playing well.
Joseph said Trent Renata, who missed yesterday's game because
of a stomach bug, or Richard Buckman would be called into the
squad to replace Buxton Popali'i who had pulled out of rugby
for the rest of the year due to impending heart surgery.
Number 8 Elliot Dixon left the field with a hamstring injury.
The Highlanders complete their pre-season with a match
against the Warratahs in Newcastle this Friday.
Super 15: Pre-season scores
Crusaders ... 28
Israel Dagg, Andy Ellis, Nafi Tuitavake, Kieron Fonotia
tries; Tyler Bleyendaal 3 con, Colin Slade, con
Highlanders ... 15
Ged Robinson, Malaki Fekitoa tries; Lima Sopoaga con, Willie