Side unable to put sufficient pressure on Hurricanes

Highlanders coaches Aaron Mauger (left) and Tony Brown. Photo: Getty Images
Highlanders coaches Aaron Mauger (left) and Tony Brown. Photo: Getty Images
It is often said that in sport defence wins titles.

But like many things said, it is not exactly true.

Points on the board lead to triumphs on the park.

The Highlanders are not far off hitting the mark of 500 tackles in their past three games in the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition.

So its defence is getting through plenty of work and by and large making the tackles.

But the side is not winning games, the latest defeat being a 17-11 loss to the Hurricanes in Wellington yesterday.

The attack is just not firing. The Highlanders attack is a combined effort. It does not have the star power of other teams which can give the ball to certain players and they simply spark the attack.

The Highlanders have to work hard to make gaps and find space. To do that well is not easy and it requires plenty of accuracy by all 15 players on the field.

The Highlanders yesterday could not create enough pressure on the Hurricanes to win the game. Under these new rules — sorry, interpretations — it is hard to maintain pressure as teams struggle to get continuity with the breakdown becoming a complete lottery.

The Highlanders simply did not mount enough pressure to score the points to win yesterday.

Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger said the side played its best when it moved the ball.

"Potentially, there was a couple of times in the first half when we should have moved the ball but we got stuck in the brawl too much," he said.

"When we move the ball that creates momentum in our game and that can lead to points. We’ve just got to use our ball better.

"It was pretty brutal. I thought the Hurricanes played really well ... the conditions were hard and tough to play in."

Mauger said it was a strong effort in defence from the side and to make 188 tackles in the game and let the Hurricanes score only three tries showed some real heart and good attitude from the team.

He praised co-captains Aaron Smith and Ash Dixon in leading the side in defence and players having trust in the defensive system.

The Hurricanes played well in the first half, carrying the ball well and it was a couple of defensive lapses in the opening half which was the difference in the game, he said.

The lineout misses at the end were disappointing and the side had to be better, he said.

Flanker Dillon Hunt left the field in the second half after getting scratched in the eye. He went for a head injury assessment but failed that. But he was feeling better after the game and should be right for next week.

There was no other serious injuries and the side would have today off before getting ready to take on the Chiefs in Hamilton this Sunday.


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