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Loss reflects even competition - Mauger

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Sunday, May 20, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

The Highlanders' loss ended the 40-game winning streak by New Zealand sides over their Australian rivals in a game in which the Highlanders had wing Tevita Nabura ordered off 17 minutes into the game for a kick to the face of Waratahs wing Cameron Clark after taking a high ball.

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"The Waratahs played outstandingly well and the Sunwolves had a good result today against the Stormers too so I think the competition has been evened out a little bit," Mauger said.

"I thought the Waratahs were outstanding, they took their opportunities and put us under pressure with 14 men. They created opportunities and they did well to execute them.

"We didn't help ourselves at times with some of our decision-making execution and that put us under a little bit of pressure and a good team like the Waratahs, who have hit a bit of form, made us pay so congratulations to them on their performance," he said.

Mauger brushed off any comment on the ending of the New Zealand streak of wins over Australian teams by saying they were disappointed to lose any game and were disappointed with their performance.

Captain Ben Smith felt that even though losing Nabura to a red card they could still be competitive. It was a case of adapting and they still had a 'massive belief' that they could get back in the game.

"As Aaron mentioned I think the Waratahs played very well tonight, put us under pressure and were able to take the opportunities they had," he said.



The yellow card suffered by halfback Aaron Smith for a deliberate knock down resulted from what was a reflex action when you were either trying to grab the ball or you were making a tackle on someone and the ball was there at the same time and it was reaction stuff a lot of the time, Ben Smith said.

Both Smith and Mauger said they had no problem with the type of ruling so long as there was consistency from referees.

Waratahs captain Michael Hooper said it was a relief to have ended the losing streak and now they could concentrate on preparing to play the Chiefs on Saturday in Hamilton.

"This team's really enjoyable to be around at the moment. You've got guys all putting up their hands, wanting to get on the field, wanting to add," he said.

While the Highlanders had 14 men for 63 minutes Hooper said from the previous week when they hadn't managed their game well when being run down by the Crusaders they had done much better against the Highlanders.

"I thought the boys really started, particularly in that second half, to work where they were short, work where we could get one up on them and our set piece was able to give the platform for our game managers to pick them off and run in some really nice tries," he said.

Coach Daryl Gibson said the side had played with confidence and scored some excellent tries.

"What this team will gain from this performance is confidence. They can go over there [Hamilton] and they know if we play with our ability, it's going to be a cracking game," he said.