'Same old story' for Highlanders
March 29, 2013
The Highlanders' players after the final whistle © Getty Images
Coaches Ewen McKenzie and Jamie Joseph had starkly contrasting emotions after Queensland Reds' thrilling 34-33 win over the Highlanders in their Super Rugby match at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday night.
McKenzie and his players had ample cause to celebrate. He became the most-capped Super coach, overtaking Robbie Deans with his 121st game in charge, the Reds gained their first Super win in Dunedin and they achieved a four-try bonus point.
But Joseph must wonder where his first win is coming from after their fifth consecutive loss, and their fourth at home.
"In the end it was the same old story," he said. "We had an opportunity towards the end, we overthrew at a couple of line-outs and we knocked on. We released the pressure because of those mistakes and you can't do that at this level. The defensive lapses we had in the first half put us in a really difficult position. You might say because of that, that we really didn't deserve to win."
Joseph agreed that self-belief might be becoming an issue after their winless start.
"Every week I think it's in the back of the minds of the players, no matter how positive they are, that there's the pressure of wanting to win. I can imagine that that is telling on them a bit in awkward situations and I think we lacked experience at the end of the game. I thought our loose forwards, in terms of urgency, were a pace behind the opposition. I thought in the second spell when we got some go-forward, provided by TJ Ioane, that they got back into the game."
Hosea Gear continued his outstanding form and Joseph was disappointed he did not receive more regular opportunities.
"We got in a position to win the game but then those little mistakes slipped in again." Joseph rejected suggestions of radical changes for the Blues game at Eden Park next Friday night.
"No, we've just got to keep cracking on. The frustrating thing is losing by just a few points every weekend."
Queensland Reds showed great spirit to resist the charging Highlanders (video available only in Australia)
All Blacks prop Tony Woodcock left the field with a tight hamstring in the second spell and he may be a doubtful starter to play against his old franchise. Meanwhile, McKenzie was thrilled as the Reds hung on for their first win in Dunedin.
"Not a lot of people gave us much hope this season and we're pretty pleased with where we're at," he said. We're just plugging away. We've got the bye next week so we're pleased with five wins and two losses. The Highlanders are tricky to play. They kick the least, they run the most. The Bulls in Brisbane last week were the opposite so it was quite a difficult turnaround for us. We created a little bit of history for ourselves and got a bonus point so it was a pretty good night."
McKenzie was pleased to have Will Genia and Quade Cooper back operating together for a full game for the first time in almost a year.
"They both played well and we needed them to get through. It's also good to have James Horwill (Wallaby captain) back from injury and getting valuable game time."