Highlanders thump Force in try-fest

Andrew Makalio scored two tries for the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium tonight. Photo: Getty...
Andrew Makalio scored two tries for the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium tonight. Photo: Getty Images
It almost seemed too easy as Andrew Makalio crossed for the Highlanders' first try.

A kick to the corner, a tidy lineout, a well-worked build-up and the use of space out to the right allowed the hooker to give the Highlanders the lead in the second minute of the game.

It was something the team was seemingly incapable of last time it took to Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium tonight.

Certainly Australian side Western Force may not be the same quality of opponent as the Blues or Crusaders.

But this is a very different Highlanders team to the one which left for its road trip a month ago.

Makalio's try turned out to be a precursor of what would unfold - and it really was that easy.

By the time Marino Mikaele-Tu'u crossed for his second - striding over off the back of a scrum in the 22nd minute - the Highlanders led 28-5.

That rampant opening quarter, in which the team played open and free-flowing rugby, laid the platform for a 61-10 win.

It was their third win in a row, crucially opening a gap from the Force in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot.

Makalio's opener was followed up four minutes later, as nice ball from experimental first five Sam Gilbert – who had a solid outing in the No 10 jersey - put Mikaele-Tu'u into space.

The Force scrambled, but Mikaele-Tu'u crashed over moments later and Gilbert converted from the sideline to make it 14-0.

Some shabby defence let the Force respond through lock Jeremy Thrush, before Thomas Umaga-Jensen broke through the middle of a ruck and linked with Scott Gregory, who scored a third for the hosts.

Mikaele-Tu'u scored the fourth not long after and a rout appeared on.

However, Highlanders lock Josh Dickson was yellow-carded for a high tackle - his third card in as many appearances for that offence - and the Force used their numbers to hit back straight away.

Makalio scored a second just after the break, perhaps the final blow to the Force, as the Highlanders ran away unchallenged in a dominant second half.


Super Rugby Pacific

The scores

Highlanders 61

Marino Mikaele-Tu'u 2, Andrew Makalio 2, Folau Fakatava 2, Scott Gregory, Rhys Marshall, Billy Harmon tries; Sam Gilbert 8 con

Force 10

Jeremy Thrush, Andrew Ready tries

Halftime: 28-5 Highlanders

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