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'That's a s*** question': Tony Brown's blunt reply to question about fast-finishing Hurricanes

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

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They are set to face the fastest finishers in Super Rugby Pacific, but Highlanders head coach Tony Brown isn’t in the mood to talk about how his side will negate the late-match threat posed by the Hurricanes in Wellington this weekend.

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The Hurricanes have left it late to pile on the points in their first two matches of the season, scoring a collective total of six tries and 38 points in the final quarter of an hour of their two season-opening fixtures against the Crusaders and Blues.

No team in the competition has scored more points in that period than the Hurricanes, and it was that late try-scoring flurry that earned them their last-gasp 33-32 victory over the Blues in Dunedin last Saturday.

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By contrast, it was in the final 15 minutes that the Highlanders fell away during their 34-19 defeat to the Crusaders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin a week ago.

Despite starting strongly and going tit for tat throughout most of their local derby, the southerners eventually fell victim to the might of the Crusaders, who ran in two tries and 14 points to blow the scoreline out in the closing stages.

While he remained proud of his side’s efforts, Brown attributed “a little bit of fatigue and not quite nailing those key moments” as major factors that contributed to the Highlanders’ late demise in the immediate aftermath of that match.

“Against probably the best team in the competition, I think we had them under enough pressure to be proud, so our learning is to do it for a little bit longer, and when we do get that opportunity to win the game, we’ve got to be able to nail it,” he said last Friday.

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“That’s why the Crusaders are [five]-time champions. They can do it for 80 minutes, and that’s our challenge.”

That challenge of staying in the fight for the entirety of the 80 minutes begins this weekend, when the Highlanders come up against a Hurricanes outfit that has flourished in that late period that Brown’s side struggled in last week.

It’s a stark comparison between the two teams, and one that Brown wasn’t interested in discussing when speaking to media on Thursday.

“That’s a s*** question, mate,” the Highlanders boss said when asked how he intends to prevent the Hurricanes from producing a late scoring spree in this week’s clash at Sky Stadium. “What are you talking about? It’s a different game.”

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When pressed further on the matter, Brown sarcastically added that he “hope[s]” his side have a plan in place to produce a more complete 80-minute performance against the Hurricanes after failing to do so against the Crusaders.

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To do that, the Highlanders must score more tries than they have done so far this year, having only dotted down twice in their opening two matches, one fewer than what the Hurricanes scored in their final 10 minutes against the Blues alone.

When asked about his side’s stagnant attack, Brown suggested the Highlanders would have scored more had the TMO ruled more favourably for his side during their two losses to the Chiefs and Crusaders.

“At the moment, the TMO’s denying us more tries than we’ve scored, so it’d be quite good if he went our way for a bit.”

Hurricanes head coach Jason Holland, meanwhile, took a more open-minded take on how his side will approach the closing moments of their match against the Highlanders, who he described as “a dangerous side”.

Holland told reporters on Thursday that the Hurricanes endeavoured to dominate the Blues for the whole of last week’s match rather than just the end of it, and will look to do the same against the Highlanders tomorrow.

“It’s pretty clear pictures. Nothing was too complicated for us. We found ways not to have the ball for the first 50 minutes, whether it be turning it over or whether it be not being able to put in a high ball kick, whether it be a set-piece,” Holland said.

“Once we held onto the ball and put them through phases, that’s what we tried to do for 80 minutes, but we got up for the last 25-odd minutes and got what we thought we’d get, and we did.

“So, pretty simple pictures around our habits and around what we can do to hold onto the ball and have possession.”

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