Super Rugby Aotearoa: TJ Perenara hails Hurricanes' defensive effort against Highlanders

Hurricanes captain TJ Perenara has credited his side's defensive effort for getting them over the line against the Highlanders in Wellington on Sunday.

The hosts backed up their maiden Super Rugby Aotearoa win against the Chiefs last weekend with a strong outing against a never-say-die Highlanders outfit, clinching a 17-11 victory to maintain their momentum.

"We defended really well again," Perenara says. "It was a game where we were put under a lot of pressure by a quality opposition.

"We gave away a few penalties that put us at the wrong end of the field. We'll address that, but defensively, we're stepping up when it matters, which is a big credit to the boys.

"A lot of defence is about attitude, knowing systems and making those one-on-one tackles, but attitude in defence is something we can't fault." 

After a rough start to the revised competition, victory moves the Wellington-based franchise into third place in the standings.

Coach Jason Holland was proud of how his charges were able to match the southerners' physicality, although he would've liked to have seen them put the nail in the coffin sooner.

Scoring the game's first three tries, the Hurricanes led by as much as 17-0 early in the second half, before a late surge from the visitors kept the contest alive.

"The Highlanders were always going to take us on physically," Holland says. "They did and our boys really stood up to that challenge, which was awesome.

"Maybe we can put teams away, rather than hang on to a 17-11, but generally pretty happy, although we still want to be better."

Both teams made plenty of errors in an often messy affair at the 'Cake Tin' and Holland admits there had been some frustrating passages of plays from a coach's perspective.

"When we held on to the ball for ages, it seemed as if we were in control. There were a couple of times we forced things and we've got to get better at those decisions. 

"But we've got to make sure we keep attacking teams and have a little bit of patience around what we're doing."

On the other side of the coin, Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger pointed at a few decisive moments in the contest where his team came up short.

"It was a tough battle," Mauger says. "It was pretty even.

"A couple of lapses on defence in that first half and ultimately that was the difference.

"The Hurricanes played well. They built momentum in that first half and made us make a lot of tackles that took a lot of juice out of the legs. 

"But I thought our guys reset really well in the second half, so it was a pretty gutsy effort from the lads."

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