Highlanders' scrum set for semifinals

Sat, 23 Jul 2016 16:00

REACTION: Highlanders scrum coach Clark Dermody has praised his team’s scrum after having to survive some last minute scares. 

The defending champions advanced to the semifinals of the 2016 Super Rugby competition with a far from polished 15-9 win over the Brumbies in Canberra.

Dermody was not surprised it was the scrum where the Brumbies attempted to put them under pressure and the scrum seemed to struggle in the first half.  Tight-head prop Josh Hohneck gave away two penalties in the space of four minutes in the first half for folding in at scrum time.

The All Black prop felt the collapsed scrums were probably a result of 'contrasting scrummaging styles' rather than his pack battling to contain the all-Australian front row.

"When [the same] front row played against England the penalties went the other way. So a lot of scrum calls can go either way, it happens, " Dermody said.

The biggest test for the Highlanders came late in the game when they were camped on their own line and the Brumbies opted to set scrum after scrum to put the acid on the Highlanders pack.

"I was happy with how the guys dug in at the end," he said.

"We were planning for plenty of scrums. We knew in the wet [the Brumbies] would look at the scrum as a facet where they could attack us," he added.

He expected the same come next week as well, whoever the opposition is.

"Every game for the past couple of years teams have thought they can push us around, but our scrum has been good. I'm pleased with it,"

Reserve tighthead prop Siosiua Halanukonuka is in doubt for the semifinal due to an ankle injury.

He replaced Hohneck at halftime but the Tongan international lasted just 13 minutes when he was forced from the field and Hohneck returned to the game.

"Somehow he ended up in the position where he went up to catch a high ball and he went over on his ankle. We'll just have to see how he is in the wash up. It is a shame because he has been going really good for us," Dermody said.

Captain Shane Christie also praised his teammates character during the match.

"We dug in over the last 15 minutes and showed good character.

"It was always going to be difficult coming over here but we’re stoked and we’re in the semi-finals now and we look forward to the week ahead," the skipper stated.

It has been a mammoth travel scheduled for the Highlanders in the past month which has included trips to South Africa, Argentina, and Australia.

Coach Jamie Joseph said the intense travel had one plus side.

"We are a really tight team. When we travel the boys have a lot of fun. There is a real balance in between doing the business at training and enjoying each other, I know a lot of teams will say that but it is a definitely with us so the travel is not too much to endure," Joseph said.

The wet and windy night proved to be a leveler and a game under the roof in Dunedin could have seen the Highlanders true attacking threats shine through.

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham voiced his disappointment following the game that they were not awarded a try late in the fixture when winger Lausii Taliauli crossed.

Referee Angus Gardner sent it upstairs and the TMO said there wasn't enough evidence to award the try.

Following the game Joseph admitted his initial reaction was it was a try.

"At first I thought he had got over the line, but with the footage, as the ref said, it was unclear. Thankfully for us," Joseph said.

Source: stuff.co.nz

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