The Highlanders signalled that they mean business in Super Rugby after running in six tries past the Rebels to post a 40-18 win.
The Highlanders signalled that they mean business in Super Rugby after running in six tries past the Rebels to post a comprehensive 40-18 win on Friday.
The victory was the southerners second in a row and breaks a six-game losing drought on Australian soil.
Highlanders flank Adam Thomson bagged his second brace in as many weeks, while hot-stepping winger Siale Piutau also crossed the whitewash twice.
The losing margin could have been a lot worse for the Rebels had it not been for the wayward boot of replacement fly-half Robbie Robinson who missed a whopping seven kicks at goal (2 from 6 conversions, 2 from 5 penalties).
Robinson was called into action after first-choice pivot Colin Slade was forced off the field early on and taken to hospital with a suspected broken jaw.
The hosts managed a late consolation try via prop Greg Somerville to give the scoreline a wee bit of respectability, but only had themselves to blame for the Highlanders' flood of tries due to some soft – at times shocking – defence that saw the Super Rugby newbies crash to their fifth defeat of the season.
As expected, the late withdrawel of captain Stirling Mortlock also proved to have a major impact on the Rebels who missed the former Wallaby captain's leadership.
The Highlanders were celebrating their first try in the 24th minute after Danny Cipriani and Robinson had traded earlier penalties. The visitors' forwards mauled their way over the Rebels' line, and Thomson was credited with the try under a pile of bodies.
Fellow flanker Alando Soakai then shrugged off two petty tackles and strolled over for the Highlanders' second, before Piutau was put over in the corner by Thomson on the stroke of half-time to give his team a 22-6 lead.
The Highlanders started the second half in the same fashion they ended the first with a second try to Piutau and then another to Kade Poki after the winger strolled through Cooper Vuna, Nick Phipps and Cipriani like they weren't even there.
Thomson picked up his brace thanks to a 60m run after the All Black gathered the ball from inside his own half to beat some flimsy Rebels cover defence, and score in the corner.
The only highlights for the home side came during the final 15 minutes with lock Hugh Pyle and Somerville scoring consolation tries to keep the encouraging crowd happy.
Tries: Pyle, Somerville
Pens: Cipriani 2
Tries: Thomson 2, Soakai, Piutau 2, Poki
Cons: Robinson 2
Pens: Robinson 2
Rebels: 15 Richard Kingi, 14 Lachlan Mitchell, 13 Mark Gerrard, 12 James Hilgendorf, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve (c), 7 Michael Lipman, 6 Jarrod Saffy, 5 Hugh Pyle, 4 Alister Campbell, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Rodney Blake.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Laurie Weeks, 18 Adam Byrnes, 19 Tim Davidson, 20 Hoani Macdonald, 21 Luke Rooney, 22 Afusipa Taumoepeau.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Siale Piutau, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Chris King, 2 Jason Rutledge, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c).
Replacements: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 David Te Moana, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 Nick Crosswell, 20 Jimmy Cowan, 21 Robbie Robinson, 22 James Paterson.
Referee: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)