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Highlanders rut 'no easy fix'
April 12, 2013
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph, New Zealand Super Rugby squads announcement, Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand, November 10, 2010
More frustration for Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph © Getty Images
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There was yet more frustration for Jamie Joseph but immense satisfaction for Jake White after the Highlanders succumbed 19-30 to the Brumbies in their Super 15 match at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday night.

The Highlanders slumped to their seventh consecutive loss, and their fifth at home, in their worst start since the competition began in 1996.

The Brumbies gained their sixth win in eight games and, with 33 points, they now lead the tournament although the Chiefs, who were the joint leaders, play on Saturday.

"I don't think there is any simple recipe to get out of the rut," Joseph said. "We've just got to get over the gain line, clear the ball quickly and score some tries. We were up against quality opposition and we could not afford to leak a soft early try or concede penalties," he said of the slow start after which the Highlanders trailed 0-10 after just six minutes.

The Highlanders' season was encapsulated by the non-award of what the crowd thought was a try to wing Hosea Gear just before half-time.

"When a team is down on confidence, those little things need to fall your way. Mentally, the mindset of the players would have been a lot different had the try been awarded."

Instead of trailing 12-17 at half-time, the Highlanders would have been level at 17-all or ahead 19-17.

"Those sorts of decisions haven't gone our way this season so we have to work harder and not rely on decisions like that to get us through games."

Joseph was particularly pleased with some individual performances, particularly those of run-on debutants TJ Ioane, Hayden Parker and Fumiaki Tanaka.

"I thought TJ showed the vigour and mindset of a seasoned Super 15 player. He took his chance and I thought the loose forwards as a whole were good. Hayden acquitted himself well in his first start, as did Fumiaki and Aaron (Smith) did well when he came on in the second spell."

The Highlanders' injury toll increased by one during the game, with wing Kade Poki leaving the field in pain just before half-time after re-injuring his ribs.

Meanwhile, Brumbies coach Jake White allowed himself a quiet smile after their convincing win.

"I'm satisfied, particularly after the way we played against the Kings last week in Canberra when we allowed them to score a late try to draw the game. There were 10 All Blacks in the Highlanders side and any win in New Zealand is always massive. We've prided ourselves on our defence. There were plenty of threats in the Highlanders' backline and we contained them except for that late try."

White had special praise for senior players Stephen Moore and George Smith who, along with captain Ben Mowen, formed a strong leadership group in the Brumbies pack.

"I was really proud of the improvement we made from last week. The Super 15 is a marathon, not a sprint, and wins like this add up at the end of the regular season."

The Highlanders' task does not get any easier as they play the Crusaders in Christchurch next Friday night. The Brumbies play the Queensland Reds in Brisbane next Saturday.

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