Highlanders focus on second half performance

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Last season's surprise win had been one of the Highlanders' best games of the 2021 season, and flanker James Lentjes said what the Highlanders could take from that performance, ahead of Friday's game, is that is what it would take to win again.


"If we draw on anything it is we need to go up and perform, and execute our game plan. Last year it worked, and I'm sure if we could do it again it can work," he said.


Winless in 2022, Lentjes said it was never nice not having won in the season, but he felt they were reasonably happy with their last outing and the second-half performance against the Blues, the way they finished and how their game was going towards the end.


"We're focusing on improving that second half, and playing that footy for longer. I'm sure if we can do that, we can swing some results our way," he said.


They wanted to simplify their game because, once they had mastered those areas, then they could add intent.


"Once we add intent, and physicality, our game looks a whole lot better," he said.


They could give their halfbacks Aaron Smith and Folau Fakatava better quality ball, and doing that allowed them to show their world-class skills for the benefit of the team.


New squad member and wing Denny Solomona will play off the bench in his debut game, and he has been impressive since joining the side. Having played at the highest level, he was invaluable off the field, and he stood to add some experience to the young back three the Highlanders field, Lentjes said.


"He's been awesome, and I can't wait to see him out there," he said.


Coach Tony Brown said he felt they were making progress around performing together as a team.


"Everyone is out there trying hard. We're playing well as individuals but we haven't quite clicked as a team yet. We've got to be a lot more connected on the field, everyone has got to be helping each other and playing together to beat these best teams," he said.


Brown said injured loose forward Billy Harmon was likely to be back sooner than expected from his shoulder reconstruction, possibly for the super round of games in Melbourne from April 22-24.


Second five-eighths Thomas Umaga-Jensen was still a couple of weeks from playing due to his groin injury.


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