Key moments cost brave Highlanders

Highlanders flanker Dillon Hunt brushes off the tackle of Crusaders loose forward Whetu Douglas...
Highlanders flanker Dillon Hunt brushes off the tackle of Crusaders loose forward Whetu Douglas at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday night. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
The Highlanders need to start converting gutsy efforts into wins on the scoreboard as a run of Sunday games start.

The side will get back to work today as it gets ready to face the Hurricanes in Wellington in six days.

The team was again lion-hearted in the match against the Crusaders but the weight of possession and territory eventually told and the home side ended up losing 40-20.

Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger praised his side for its courage and character and felt it was in the match for nearly all of the second half.

"There were a couple of key moments in the second half and we just have to be better there. We failed to release a ball there and it would have been a try, 27-26 to us, and it would have been a different game. We would have been able to put pressure on them," Mauger said.

"We are pleased with the effort and there is no lack of it. But it is disappointing ... we will take the lessons from that and move forward. Just basic stuff really. You have to win all those moments. I thought we made them work hard for their moments but there was a couple of soft ones from us."

He said winning those moments came from experience and being able to execute at the right time.

"We need to live at that intensity for the whole game. We fell a bit short last week and we fell again tonight when it really mattered. So we need to work hard during the week and get better next week.

"It just comes from time and keep working on things. Our attack has looked a lot more fluid, our set piece is getting better, the defence for the most part was good — making some good shots. It is there, just making that extra 2-3 % and having a bit of polish."

That would take time but he was pleased the side was making progress. The loose forwards were playing well and Shannon Frizell was showing good form.

The set piece could have been better although, after a couple of wonky scrums at the start, it held together for most of the game.

Lock Josh Dickson went off in the first half after a blow to his leg below the knee and the team is awaiting the result of a scan. He did not go to hospital after initially looking serious.

Back Ngane Punivai left the field with concussion shortly after scoring a try in the first half. He has already suffered concussion this season so his immediate playing future is up in the air. Prop Daniel Lienert-Brown strained his back early on but pushed through the rest of the first half.

The Highlanders are a bit sore after two hard games and there could be some changes this week, Mauger said.

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