The Highlanders held off a late comeback from the Waratahs to win 26-30 and earn a third straight Super Rugby victory over the Sydney based team.
The Highlanders went out to a 22-0 lead in the match and had the result and the bonus point seemingly wrapped up but the Waratahs fought their way back into the match.
The Waratahs came from being 0-30 down to almost stealing the match with 26 unanswered points.
When the Waratahs got to within four points the defending champions regrouped and held on to their lead to go to the top of the New Zealand conference midway through the fourth round of the five-nation tournament, while the 2014 champions fell to their second loss in three matches.
The Highlanders, who eliminated the Waratahs 35-17 in last year’s semi-finals, have now beaten the Sydneysiders in four of their last five encounters.
Ryan Tongia scored the opening try in the 11th minute and Liam Squire scored off a dropped Waratahs ball 18 minutes later.
Flanker Elliot Dixon scored the first of his two tries off a kick from winger Matt Faddes to have the Highlanders leading 22-0 at half-time with fly-half Lima Sopoaga contributing two conversions and a penalty.
Dixon scored again off a high kick seven minutes after the resumption and a Sopoaga drop kick pushed the Highlanders out to 30-0 before the Waratahs sprung into action.
The Waratahs rattled on 26 points in 17 minutes to give their fans hope of a stirring come-from-behind victory.
Jed Holloway, a half-time replacement, scored a hat-trick of tries with another replacement Tom Robertson scoring a fourth try.
Wallaby Kurtley Beale converted three of the tries.
But the Highlanders steadied and repulsed the Waratahs comeback to take home the points.
“It’s back to the drawing board,” said Waratahs captain Michael Hooper.
Next week the Highlanders play the Rebels in Melbourne on Saturday while the Waratahs play the Reds in Brisbane on Sunday.
Final Score Waratahs 26 (0) Highlanders 30 (22)
Tries – J. Holloway 3, T.Robertson
Con – K.Beale 3
Tries – R.Tongia, L.Squire, E. Dixon 2
Pen – L.Sopoaga
Con – L.Sopoaga 2
Referee: Nick Briant
Assistant Ref 1:James Leckie
Assistant Ref 2:Graham Cooper
TMO : Ian Smith
1. Paddy Ryan ,2. Tolu Latu ,3. Angus Ta’avao ,4. Dean Mumm,5. Will Skelton ,6. David Dennis (VC),7. Michael Hooper (C),8. Wycliff Palu ,9. Nick Phipps ,10. Kurtley Beale,11. Zac Guildford ,12. David Horwitz ,13. Rob Horne ,14. Matt Carraro ,15. Israel Folau
Replacements : 16. Hugh Roach,17. Jeremy Tilse ,18. Tom Robertson *,19. Sam Lousi,20. Jed Holloway ,21. Jack Dempsey ,22. Matt Lucas ,23. Reece Robinson *
*(potential Super Rugby/ NSW debut)
1. Brendon Edmonds , 2. Liam Coltman , 3. Siosiua Halanukonuka , 4. Alex Ainley , 5. Tom Franklin , 6. Elliot Dixon , 7. Shane Christie( cc ) , 8. Liam Squire , 9. Aaron Smith , 10. Lima Sopoaga , 11. Ryan Tongia , 12. Rob Thompson , 13. Malakai Fekitoa , 14. Matt Faddes , 15. Ben Smith ( cc )
Replacements : 16. Ash Dixon , 17. Daniel Lienert-Brown , 18. Ross Geldenhuys , 19. Mark Reddish , 20. Gareth Evans , 21. Josh Renton , 22. Hayden Parker , 23. Jason Emery