Highlanders make light of Emery ban

The Highlanders are putting a brave face on the four-game ban for utility back Jason Emery with his teammates not shy in giving him a bit of stick.

Making his first start, Emery was red carded for his unintentionally dangerous tackle on Sharks fullback Willie le Roux in the 13th minute of Friday’s game in Dunedin. It was a game the Highlanders eventually lost 15-14.

Emery pleaded guilty at the judiciary, and the three-man tribunal confirmed the five-eighth will miss three Super Rugby matches and a club game.

Despite the severity of the ban, it didn’t take long for Emery to be the butt of a couple of jokes from his teammates this week.

“We nicknamed him whero (Maori for red) for being in the red, and getting a red card,” Elliot Dixon explained.

“It sucks for him, but I think we’ve just got to move on. We’ve got some great cover there.”

That message was echoed from assistant coach Scott McLeod, who confirmed the franchise wouldn’t appeal the decision.

Despite playing with 14 men, the Highlanders fought their way towards an unlikely victory only for simple handling errors and a missed Lima Sopoaga dropped goal in the remaining minutes to halt their charge.

It was their second consecutive one-point defeat, after a loss to the Reds a fortnight earlier.

McLeod said his side had to focus on its own performances, rather than worry about Saturday’s opponents the Brumbies.

“With one player down, that forced us to go into a different way of playing that we didn’t plan for,” he said.

“I think we were trying to make up for that, and we didn’t need to, and we were just forcing things a little bit, so back to normal for us.”

Dixon was more blunt in his response as to what his side needed to improve for Saturday’s match.

“Hopefully keep 15 men out there, that’d be a good start,” he said.

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