Welsh maestro Patchell displays his class for the Highlanders


Coach Clarke Dermody said Patchell did a great job and was one of their better players who ran the side's plans well.

"He must have rubbed shoulders with Sonny Bill [Williams] out there to get that off-load away. I think it's a new string to his bow. He's been great for us and I can't talk highly enough around what he's done for our group, and our young tens [first five-eighths]. He's done an awesome job around AJ and Cam [Millar], bringing them through and teaching them about the rugby game."

Players were encouraged to look for and use space when it was available.

"It's pleasing that we were able to score five tries each and if we can tidy up getting out of our half, keep teams away from our line, it's going to be important."

Dermody said the Highlanders executed their game plan well for much of the game, but their exits hurt them.

"We gave the Blues opportunities to attack us and they are a strong team with powerful athletes. We made something like 260 tackles, that's a high percentage that takes its toll over time."

That was especially the case in the last stages of the first half.

"We were attacking pretty hard there. We felt like we were right in the game, but we tried a bit hard in that last moment and gave them an opportunity."

Fullback Jacob Ratumataivuki-Kneepkens was given a yellow card in the Blues' breakout move, but Dermody said he couldn't fault his effort in getting back and doing what he did. It was their work allowing the Blues to exit that hurt them.

Captain Billy Harmon said their effort showed them their game plan works when they get it right.

"But if we don't exit well, if we give away silly penalties, that's going to hurt us which it did tonight. So, if we can tidy up those areas I think we'll be in a good place."

Ethan de Groot's return at prop was beneficial, with his physicality important against a physical team like the Blues.

"He stood up in that regard and being as hot as it was, it took its toll on both teams. There were quite a few changes just after halftime. I think he'll be better for that run."


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