Super Rugby 2020: Aaron Mauger praises Highlanders' resilience in come-from-behind win against Brumbies

Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger is a relieved man after an 84th-minute try saw his side snatch a 23-22 win against the Brumbies in Canberra. 

Second-five Josh Ioane converted flanker Teariki Ben-Nicholas' try after the full-time siren, which saw the Highlanders claim their first win of the season. 

Mauger was desperate for the Highlanders to win, after crashing 42-20 to the Sharks in their season opener last weekend.

The Highlanders seemed destined for defeat after trailing 12-3 after 30 minutes and 22-16 with seconds remaining when captain James Lentjes produced a crucial turnover and won the Highlanders a penalty.

Mauger praised his players' resilience in the closing stages. 

"I thought there was a lot of courage shown in that last five or six minutes," Mauger said.

"We could have gone safe but the guys really expressed themselves and put it out there, which is what we wanted, and created that opportunity to win the game.

"We train those scenarios whether we're up or whether we're behind and need to get the ball back and I thought the guys executed their plan very well.

"I think Ash Dixon was actually the first guy there that took the shot for James to take the glory. 

"It was a team effort and James just happened to be the guy on the ball at the end and gave us that opportunity to have another crack at them."

Aaron Mauger.
Aaron Mauger. Photo credit: Photosport

The Highlanders have won five straight games against the Brumbies, while the defeat was the Brumbies' first in 10 games.

While it was cheering for the Highlanders, Brumbies coach Dan McKellar was left frustrated after Highlanders wing  Sio Tomkinson was lucky to escape being sent off for a dangerous tackle in the second half.

Tomkinson didn't wrap his arms as his shoulder hit Brumbies fullback Tom Banks' head but referee Nic Berry deemed the initial contact was shoulder to shoulder and opted for a yellow card.

McKellar suggested Super Rugby officials are not following the strict red card precedent set at the World Cup last year.

"I thought it was a red card," McKellar said.

"If you're asking me as a rugby fan, I thought, from what we've seen previously, I thought it was in that red card threshold."

Even Mauger conceded by the letter of the law his winger's night could have been over.

"It's a tough one, isn't it," Mauger said.

"If you're reffing to the letter it's contact with the head, but I don't think there was any malice there and there's nowhere for him to go.

"It's one of those ones that happens in a split second, so I don't think there was any chance of pulling out."

Tomkinson has since been cited for the tackle, deemed to reach the red card threshold. 

The Highlanders face a short turnaround for their next match against the Crusaders next Friday in Christchurch.