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Highlanders unfurl Lions-beating blueprint

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 14/06/2017 Daniel Gilhooly

The Highlanders reckon they've uncovered some Lion-busting methods which might be of interest to the All Blacks.

Shutting down the scrum and using a variety of kicks to fracture the British and Irish Lions' defensive line speed is being touted as a winning blueprint by the southerners, whose understrength side pipped the tourists 23-22 on Tuesday.

First five-eighth Marty Banks said the Lions thrive on stifling opponents through winning collisions in the middle of the park.

It was something they achieved in the 12-3 win over the Crusaders three days before but the Highlanders were determined not to play into their hands.

Their trademark style of employing a variety of kicks was a natural solution to avoid an arm wrestle.

"We watched a few games and the line speed the Lions brought was pretty unreal," he said.

"We just needed to take that out of them early in the game.

"In the end, that probably helped us win the game because we took that away from them and got to play a bit of footy."

Interim Highlanders coach Scott McLeod said the other key to victory was to stand up to the tourists' scrum, which had enjoyed unexpected success against the strong Crusaders tight five.

The match-winning penalty kicked by Banks came off a giant Highlanders shove in the closing minutes, providing McLeod with his most satisfying moment of the contest.

"It's a quality Lions set piece and we wanted to match that. We needed to, so we could play the way we wanted to.

"They spent a lot of time playing in their half and that's exactly what we wanted."

The result has done little to harm the coaching reputation of McLeod, who is usually the Highlanders defensive coach but stood in this week for absent head coach Tony Brown.

The former Chiefs and New Zealand midfield back is considered a front-runner to replace esteemed All Blacks assistant Wayne Smith when that spot becomes vacant later in the year.

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