Herald on Sunday
We’re still in with a final shot — Landers
Highlanders co-captain Ash Dixon is still holding out hope of making the final of Super Rugby Aotearoa.
The Highlanders’ 35-29 victory over the Blues on Friday night jumped the southerners to just one point behind the Blues, though now also two points behind the Chiefs after their win last night.
The Highlanders have just one game left, away to the Hurricanes, meaning they need a victory — preferably with a bonus point — and then hope for an unlikely run of results to go their way.
“We still believe we are [a chance in the competition], Dixon said.
“We managed to beat the team that is coming second and we have beaten the top team.
“Imagine if we had beaten those other teams.
“We gave it everything to give ourselves a chance.”
He praised his side’s attitude and scramble defence in their victory, having muscled up and taken chances when they came along.
“There was just more will out there. I think you can see in this competition you’ve got to try to be consistent to be a great team. We’ve had games and moments where we have been great and then moments we have been poor. We are a bit licorice all-sorts at times, but we were on,” Dixon said.
“There is not a lot in these games. But if you can get some points early, put a bit of scoreboard pressure on then you can get momentum and we did that.”
He praised the performance of the Highlanders’ loose forward trio who were up against an All Blacks loose forward trio. The Highlanders were composed in the final minutes and put the ball in the right area and backed their defence.
Highlanders coach Tony Brown said it was an outstanding effort and the intent and execution was accurate.
“We had to be good at the breakdown and that was probably the best it has been all year,” Brown said.
“The loose forward trio was outstanding — our loose forwards have always been our point of difference.”
He praised the work of veteran lock Bryn Evans, saying the lock’s experience was invaluable to the team. Another classy try from a set piece, scored by Ngantungane Punivai, was something to be proud of and gave real satisfaction as a coach, Brown said.