Win comes at high cost for Highlanders

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Saturday, March 11, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Highlanders coach Tony Brown was happy to finally get a win but was clearly concerned about the consequences of injuries for the side.

"Those guys are going to be tough to replace but we will have to wait and see what happens on Monday," he said.

But he added that the loss of players early in games, as happened a week earlier when flanker James Lentjes was ruled out and then again on Saturday when Naholo had to come off, put the whole game under pressure and the team also.

Brown said he was more relieved than anything to have his side get their first win of the season.

"For us it was great to get our first win of the season but probably neither side deserved to win, it was a pretty ugly game," he said.

The Highlanders had prepared a kicking game and desired targets in the Blues defence and a big part of their plan was making sure their kicks were on the money, he said.

"The Blues at lineout time were under a bit of pressure last week so that was an area we felt maybe we could get a little bit of an edge and we put a bit of pressure on there which was great.

Blues coach Tana Umaga said the game was definitely frustrating, and followed a similar performance a week earlier against the Chiefs.

"We made a lot of errors, we probably didn't get into our game as much as we wanted and, again, you have got to take your hat off to the Highlanders. They pressured us and frustrated us so we weren't able to do that."

The Highlanders kicking game was not a surprise to the Blues and they had put plans in place.

"We knew it was coming and we had people in the right places but we just weren't able to take care of that ball so we will have to have a look at that because obviously other teams will see that and look to exploit that so we need to ensure that plans we do come up with work and we just have to trust them," he said.

Frustrations at the lineout would require another trip to the drawing board although, again, Umaga could point to examples of getting good drive going on occasions when they secured ball but what pressure they could create wasn't enough.

Umaga said it wasn't clear how long prop Charlie Faumuina would be out. He suffered muscles spasms in his back ahead of the game and they needed to settle down before a call could be made.

"We just couldn't get anything going. Everyone tries to cut us off right from the set piece and they were able to do that today. We've got to find ways of getting our own ball and it's not as if we didn't work on it during the week. We worked on it extensively but it's just the plans we put in place, we have got to trust them and look at the opportunities," he said.