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Brown behind Highlanders triumph: McLeod

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 13/06/2017 Daniel Gilhooly

Head coach Tony Brown has been hailed the mastermind behind the Highlanders' comeback triumph against the British and Irish Lions, even if he was watching from 9000km away.

Interim coach Scott McLeod says the 23-22 upset in Dunedin on Tuesday was built on the progress achieved under Brown this season.

Brown is serving as Japan's assistant coach during their June internationals while Super Rugby takes a break.

He was quick to make contact with the Highlanders after fulltime on Tuesday, congratulating the players for a never-say-die attitude.

"It was pretty simple, he was into his third beer. He reckons the beer always tastes better when you win," McLeod said.

"I'd imagine, he'll be feeling a couple of pangs that he's not here.

"He's led this team really well this year. He's created a lot of the attitude that you saw tonight so I'm sure he'd be missing this occasion."

McLeod agreed with Brown's assertion that attitude in the final quarter proved decisive as they fought back from 22-13 down.

Determination translated into a converted try for hooker Liam Coltman and a match-winning penalty from reserve pivot Marty Banks.

"The most pleasing thing were a couple of moments in the second half when we applied pressure and kept playing with that attitude. I'm extremely proud," McLeod said.

Typifying the performance was captain Luke Whitelock, who produced 18 tackles, most of them low and scything.

"I wanted to put in a performance I could pretty proud of," Whitelock said after one of his finest Highlanders outings.

"When they're just doing one pass off the ruck, I'm trying to get into the game and put some of my presence on it.

"I thought that went alright."

One-Test All Black Whitelock says the speed and standard of the game was similar to their most recent New Zealand Super Rugby derby against the Crusaders.

A big difference was the size of the occasion, which was marked when he presented Lions skipper Warburton with a Claymore sword moments before kick-off.

"The whole atmosphere. The buzz around town was another level. It was awesome to be involved with," Whitelock said.

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