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The half-time talk that propelled the Highlanders to their record-breaking win over the Waratahs

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

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Highlanders head coach Clarke Dermody has revealed that a half-time talk from one of his assistant coaches helped propel his side to their record-breaking win over the Waratahs in Dunedin on Saturday.


The Highlanders thumped the New South Welshmen 59-23 in their Super Rugby Trans-Tasman clash at Forsyth Barr Stadium, a result that lifted the southerners to second on the competition standings with just one round left to play.

Provided they defeat the Brumbies next week and maintain a better points difference than the Crusaders, a place in the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final on June 19 looks a very realistic prospect.

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That much has been made possible partly due to the words of defence coach Shane Christie, who helped ensure that the Highlanders kept the Waratahs scoreless throughout the entire second half.

Running in nine tries to two, the Highlanders scored their most-ever points in a fixture against the Waratahs, but Dermody told reporters after the match that it was his team’s defence in the second half that was the best aspect of the result.

“I think the most pleasing thing was the second half, being able to hold them try-less in that second half,” he said.

“I think you’ve seen all year the Waratahs have been throwing the ball around and scoring a lot of points in games, so at half-time it was turning that way again, so to be able to stop that and to be able to get away with them was probably the most pleasing thing.”


Dermody credits Christie for the Highlanders’ stern defensive effort after they leaked two tries in the opening 20 minutes.

“Shane had a good word with the boys at half-time and there was a message around [about] desire, knowing that last week they didn’t kick the ball a lot in the second half and we were going to have to work really hard, so it was pleasing to see.

“That sort of stuff just shows the culture we’ve got at the moment. The boys are working really hard for each other, so pleased with the way they did.”

The franchise’s hopes of securing their first title since 2015 received a significant boost when the Brumbies stunned the Hurricanes, who previously occupied second place on the table, in Canberra just hours after the Highlanders’ victory.


The 12-10 win handed the Brumbies their first victory over Kiwi opposition this year, and Dermody is aware of the threat they will pose when the Highlanders play them at GIO Stadium next Friday.

“They’ll be coming off a big one tonight as well, so it’ll be a test. We’ve had some tough games over there in the past. I remember last year we managed to roll up on them right at the end of the game,” he said.

“This time of the year, it’s not going to be a fun game. It’ll be pretty forward-orientated I’d say, so it’s going to be a big, physical challenge.”

Asked what he makes of his side’s final chances in a congested top half of the table where all five New Zealand franchises are likely to be in the running for a place in the top two, Dermody said all the Highlanders can do only focus on winning their next match.

“All we can do now is keep trying to give ourselves that chance. We still need a bit of help from other teams, but it’s not something we’ve talked about as a team.

“We’re just trying to win every game, putting ourselves in positions where we can get those bonus points, and it’s pleasing to get it this time and not let it slip like the previous couple of weeks.”


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