Dixon wins coach's plaudits for versatility

NATHAN BURDON IN DUNEDIN
Last updated 05:00 01/07/2013
Elliot Dixon
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
NO WAY THROUGH: Elliot Dixon challenges the Crusaders' defence in Dunedin on Saturday night.

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Elliot Dixon's time as a temporary openside flanker looks set to continue with the Highlanders.

The Southland No 8, who has also spent time at blindside with the Highlanders this season, played his first game in the No 7 jersey since high school when he lined up against the Crusaders in Dunedin on Saturday night.

Dixon made a good fist of his new role, providing some good link play and getting around the field well, against Crusaders and new All Blacks flanker Matt Todd.

"I was just trying to find my bearings. I wasn't trying to think too much about my lines, I was just thinking about what my next job was," Dixon said.

"I was just trying to keep Toddy out of it; that was my goal, to hold him down as long as I could or just follow him around."

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph paid credit to Dixon after the 40-12 loss to the Crusaders.

"I thought he had a great game. He's not a seven, he's never played there before, particularly at this level, but he's fast, isn't he? It was a hard situation and he fronted."

With Highlanders flanker John Hardie unlikely to return for the remainder of the Super Rugby campaign after suffering a knee injury, Dixon looks set for more time off the side of the scrum in the final two games, against the Hurricanes and the Rebels.

"It's just another feather in my cap, I suppose. That's how I look at it," Dixon said.

"As long as I can keep building that, I might look better as a bench option, or even starting, next year."

Dixon has had an up-and-down season, initially graduating into the No 8 jersey after the season-ending injury to Nasi Manu but then paying the price for a high error count.

"If you'd told me at the start of the season that I'd play in every game, pretty much, except for a couple of games, I'd have taken that. I'm a little bit disappointed; I'd have liked to have had a couple more starts at eight or six. Hopefully, the next couple of weeks, I'll build for next year," he said.

Dixon hasn't been short of line breaks this season, and has showcased his pace but has been guilty of losing the ball too much.

"That's one of the things I'll work on, that ball security. It's about maybe not looking for the offload . . . it's probably just an eager thing, once you make the break or have the ball in hand, you want to score the try. With the Highlanders, when we are four of five down, everyone is trying to make that play. If we were winning, you wouldn't have to throw that miracle pass."

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Dixon said he felt good physically heading towards the end of the Highlanders' campaign and was looking forward to returning to Southland for the NPC.

- The Southland Times

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