The Highlanders crushed the Melbourne Rebels 51-12 at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin with an emphatic display of speed and skill.
Malakai Fekitoa scored a brace and Marty Banks kicked 19 points after a perfect performance from the tee as the hosts ran in six tries to two to claim the bonus-point win.
Aaron Smith put in a virtuoso performance in his 100th Super rugby match becoming the eighth player for the franchise to reach the milestone.
Two first half tries from Fekitoa and Luke Whitelock saw the hosts speed into a 23-nil lead after 50 minutes.
The Rebels scored soon after through Tom English, but that was as good as it got all evening.
Tony Brown’s men ran away with the game, scoring four more second-half tries, including Fekitoa’s second and scores for Richerd Buckman, Gareth Evans and Greg Pleasants-Tate as they racked up the half-century.
Reece Hodge scored and converted a late try but the Rebels as they went down by 39 points under the roof in Otago.
After Banks gave the hosts a 3-0 fifth-minute lead Fekitoa collected Richard Buckman’s pass after he hit the advantage line, rode a tackle and got his offload to his supporting centre partner.on the angle, beats the cover defence and scores under the sticks. It all came from the scrum set-piece.
Running a good angle, Fekitoa beat the cover defence and scored under the sticks. It all came from the scrum set-piece.
Four minutes later Buckman hit the gain line to set up the stand-in skipper’s try. Tom Franklin took the ball near the goal-line, threw a dummy and spun away from the on-rushing defence, setting up the No 8 to score under the poles.
Banks’ second conversion and a late first half penalty gave the Highlanders a 20-0 halftime lead.
The Rebels scrum was creaking and their handling was sloppy. At the break, the territory and possession were 60 percent and 75 percent respectively and the hosts had spent eight minutes forty-five seconds inside the visitors’ 22.
The Rebels, in contrast, only a minute and a half. It got worse in the second period as Brown’s men upped the tempo and intensity.
The Rebels finally managed to make the little possession they had count. After seven phases Tom English burst over to score. The winger collected the ball and rounded the covering defence to go over in the corner.
The conversion was missed and the score 23-5. There was to be no miracle comeback as the Highlanders changed gears.
Buckman’s quick thinking and quick tap, saw the centre barge over from close range, bouncing off Fereti Sa’aga and Jordy Reid.
On the hour Evans scored Highlanders’ fourth try. The flanker collected a pass from Banks, stepped infield and beat the cover defence, running 25 metres to score. He beat Nic Stirzaker’s tackle after stepping inside Garden-Bachop, showing a good turn of pace to race away.
Banks was fire and extended the lead to a 37-5 going into the final quarter. The Rebels faded and started to make silly tired errors.
Aaron Smith’s up-and-under was gathered by Jackson Garden Bachop deep inside his own half but, the first-five-eight, in a moment of madness, threw a speculative wide pass which was intercepted by Fekitoa, who then beat English’s covering tackle to score under the poles.
There was time for Hodge to get himself a try when he collected a long pass from Ben Volavola, slipping a tackle from Patrick Osborne and going over in the corner. He added the two from the touchline, 44-12 with two minutes to play.
The Melbourne side could have done without the final indignity. Pleasants-Tate completed the rout with a barnstorming run, brushing aside tacklers with ease.
Fletcher Smith, on for Banks, brought up the fifty, consigning the Aussies to their 15th defeat against Kiwi opposition.
Final score is Highlanders 51 (20) Rebels 12 (0)
Tries – Fekitoa (2), Whitelock, Buckman, Evans, Pleasants-Tate
Pen – Banks (3)
Con – Banks (5), Fletcher Smith
Tries – English, Hodge
Con – Hodge
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant Ref 1: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Ref 2: Angus Mabey
TMO: Aaron Paterson
15 Matt Faddes, 14 Tevita Li, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Richard Buckman, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock (captain), 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Joe Wheeler, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Aki Seiuli.
Replacements: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 19 Elliot Dixon, 20 Tupou Sopoaga, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Teihorangi Walden.
15 Jack Debreczeni, 14 Tom English, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Nic Stirzaker (captain), 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Jordy Reid, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Fereti Sa’aga.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Tom Moloney, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Dominic Day, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Mick Snowden, 22 Sione Tuipulotu, 23 Ben Volavola