The Highlanders hammered the Queensland Reds 40-19 in the first-ever Super Rugby Trans-Tasman clash at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin.
The Highlanders scored six tries to three and claimed their first back-to-back Super Rugby win since 2019 against a tired-looking Reds side.
The Reds only trained once since last weekend’s epic Super Rugby AU final win over the Brumbies. The fatigued Australians looked rusty against the New Zealand side, who had not played since April 30th.
The mental toll of a draining Super Rugby AU final played a part in the visitor’s defeat to a fresh Kiwi outfit.
The Highlanders‘ bruising bonus-point drubbing of the Super Rugby AU champions will make for uneasy viewing across the Tasman.
The 21-point win is the biggest margin of victory for the Highlanders over the Reds in Dunedin since 2004.
This heavy defeat is the 11th in the previous 12 Super Rugby matches for Queensland in this away fixture.
Another horrific statistic for the Brisbane-based team is that the loss is their 17th in the last 18 contests against New Zealand opposition.
The Highlanders led 21-7 at halftime after tries from Scott Gregory, Ash Dixon (two tries), and Sio Tomkinson.
Mitch Hunt converted all three scores, while James O’Connor converted Kalani Thomas’ score.
The Highlanders should have led by more, but Gregory lost the ball over the try line on the stroke of halftime.
Tony Brown – who was not at the ground – will be delighted at how his charges took the game away from the opposition after halftime.
Suliasi Vunivalu – who also grabbed a brace – dotted down soon after the restart. However, Dixon scored again, his replacement Liam Coltman also got on the board as the score began to mount.
Ngatugnane Punivai’s converted try, six minutes before the end, came soon after to finish the rout.
Vunivalu’s second, after the hooter, flattered the Aussie champions.
Highlanders pounce on Queensland error’s to open up a comfortable first-half advantage
Gregory opened the scoring after 34 seconds after Thomas’ stray pass hit Angus Blyth allowing the Landers to turnover the ball and go wide to the centre, who walked over for the score.
The Reds hit back five minutes later when Thomas darted around the ruck, wriggled through Aaron Smith, and managed to get the ball on the chalk.
The rest of the half saw the Highlanders camped inside the Reds’ half. Brad Thorn’s side struggled with the high ball, and the kicks behind their backline caused problems.
Super Rugby Trans-Tasman Round 1 Video Highlights: Highlanders vs Queensland Reds, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Both times the ball went behind the Queensland back-three, Hegarty carried over the in-goal or goal line, which gave the Landers two five-metre scrums.
Dixon crashed over on 28 minutes after several attacks to put his team back in front, and Tomkinson finished in the corner after Queensland ran out of numbers, six minutes before the break.
Highlanders increase the tempo and blow away the tired Reds after the break
Thorn’s men came out firing after the break, scoring through Ngatugnane Punivai.
Vunivalu out jumped fullback Sam Gilbert and managed to dot the ball down over the line.
The score was set up by a superb crossfield kick by Hegarty, who had moved to first receiver after O’Connor left the field with a concussion. Hegarty, however, missed the touchline conversion.
The visitor’s joy was short-lived because Dixon crashed over from a well-worked driving maul from five metres out.
Hunt missed the wide conversion, but the hosts regained their 14-point advantage.
Filipo Daugunu had a try chalked off by the TMO for a forward pass by Hegarty in the build-up.
It was a superb attack by the Reds, with both backs and forwards linking down the righthand sideline, but it came to nothing.
The Reds began to run out of steam. The Highlanders increased the intensity and ramped up the pressure with multiple series of sustained attacks.
Coltman crashed over from another driving maul on 71 minutes, Punivai three minutes later after an expert finish in the righthand corner. Hunt’s fifth conversion brought up the forty-burger.
Vunivalu beat Nareki to Hegarty’s pin-point crossfield kick to net a brace and give the score some sort of respectability. This could be a long campaign for the Aussie sides
Final Score: Highlanders 40 (21) Reds 19 (7)
Tries – Gregory, Dixon (2), Tomkinson, Coltman, Punivai
Con – Hunt (5)
Tries – Thomas, Vunivalu (2)
Con – O’Connor, Hegarty
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Ref 1: James Doleman
Assistant Ref 2: Angus Maybe
TMO: Mike Fraser
15 Sam Gilbert, 14 Patelesio Tomkinson, 13 Michael Collins, 12 Scott Gregory, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith (cc), 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Hugh Renton, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon (cc), 1 Ayden Johnstone
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Ethan De Groot, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Bryn Evans, 20 James Lentjes, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Tim O’Malley, 23 Ngatugnane Punivai
15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 13 Josh Flook, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Jock Campbell, 10 James O’Connor (cc), 9 Kalani Thomas, 8 Seru Uru, 7 Liam Wright (cc), 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Angus Blyth, 4 Ryan Smith, 3 Feao Fotuaika, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Dane Zander
Replacements: 16 Josh Nasser, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 20 Fraser McReight, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Isaac Henry, 23 Suliasi Vunivalu