Friend bid to iron out Brumbies kinks - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Friend bid to iron out Brumbies kinks

By Adrian Warren 14/02/2009 10:05:10 AM Comments (0)

New Brumbies coach Andy Friend intends ironing out the kinks in his team's defence for next week's clash with reigning Super rugby champions the Crusaders following his heart-stopping first match in charge.

The Brumbies shaded the Highlanders 33-31 in Dunedin on Friday night in a match which they trailed 19-0, led 30-19 and fell behind 31-30 inside the last five minutes.

A drop goal to young five-eighth Christian Lealiifano inside the final 40 seconds ensured Friend's Super coaching debut started on a positive note.

While delighted with the character displayed by his side, Friend was justifiably concerned about some of their defensive deficiencies.

They conceded five tries, three of them in the opening 20 minutes and two more in the last ten.

Friend recognised the Brumbies could not afford to be so generous towards a Crusaders outfit renowned for ruthlessly exploiting opposing teams' mistakes and lapses of concentration.

"I think our defensive structure and our defensive system is an area we need to do a lot of work on," Friend said.

"We opened up a couple of holes for the Highlanders and they were good enough to find them and come through.

"This week coming, we'll obviously be doing a lot of work as we are up against a side which, if you leave holes in the defensive line, they will pour through."

The Brumbies will also continue to fine-tune the developing combinations in their back line.

The much-heralded centre pairing of Wallabies Stirling Mortlock and Adam Ashley-Cooper showed tantalising glimpses of their strike power, scoring three of the Brumbies tries with Mortlock setting up a fourth for fullback Mark Gerrard.

Mortlock described his move from outside to inside centre as "fine".

"I think the combination with Adam Ashley-Cooper was a little bit more cohesive than what it was in our trial last week, so that's a real bonus," Mortlock said.

"I'm really looking forward to getting our whole back line to gell a bit more than what we did tonight."

The former Brumbies captain and current Wallabies skipper believed 20-year-old Lealiifano had developed immensely as both a person and a player over the past year.

He believed the Brumbies had reaped the benefits of the youth policy forced on their back line last season when he and several other experienced backs were injured.

"Last season was a great depth provider for us, a lot of our younger guys got a great opportunity to play this level of rugby," Mortlock said.

"They have matured and grown from that, so it's really improved our depth. It's a really positive environment and it's probably been as a result of a bit of pain that we had to go through last year."

Mortlock said the Canberra Stadium clash with the Crusaders next Saturday represented a great challenge to the Brumbies, as the seven-time Super champions were the competition's benchmark.

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