Rugby: Highlanders rout ragged Rebels

The Rebels were simply, simply smashed. The Highlanders, drowning in a sea of possession and territory, defeated the Melbourne Rebels 40-18 in Melbourne last night.

The side scored six tries in a performance where accuracy was in abundance and the team made the advantage line at will. If Robbie Robinson had kicked his goals it would have been a half century.

It was the first win in Australia since 2007 and the side was too clinical against an average looking Rebels outfit.

The Highlanders were on the front foot almost the whole night and had the game in the bag when up 22-6 at the break.

Gone was the skittery stuff from last week, with passes going to hand and some pure speed shown at times.

There were some absolutely pearler tries scored by the Highlanders.

Adam Thomson sprinted more than 50m to score with 10 minutes left, showing his pace and ticker.

Wing Kade Poki scored an absolute blinder on the 50-minute mark.

He picked the ball up going backwards and proceeded to brush off more than half a dozen tackles as he set sail for the line.

The only downer for the Highlanders was when Colin Slade left the field after just four minutes. He was taken to hospital with a recurrence of the jaw injury which wiped out the first six weeks of his season.

But that was the only black mark in one of the best performances by the franchise in many a year.

It would be hard to put any one Highlander above the other such was the team effort but fullback Ben Smith has probably not played a better game in the Highlanders jersey.

Thomson was everywhere while lock Jarrad Hoeata got round the paddock.

Danny Cipriani put the first points on the board after eight minutes and the Highlanders missed a chance to tie the scores when Robinson, on for Slade, failed to land a simple penalty chance after 16 minutes.

He got his radar right five minutes later to lock up the scores.

But Robinson then blew a try a minute later.

The Rebels coughed the ball up with a great case of butter fingers but Robinson could not hold on to the ball with the line right in front of him.

The visiting side though was close to the try line and, after winning a scrum penalty, opted to kick for touch.

The Highlanders front eight then drove over the line from the lineout and in a pile of bodies Thomson was awarded the try after 23 minutes.

Robinson could not kick a penalty after 33 minutes but the Highlanders were in for their second try a minute later thanks to a marvellous run from Smith.

The Otago fullback carved off a simply splendid 50m sprint, off a nice inside ball from Robinson, and was lowered just under the posts.

The Highlanders then cleared the ball from the ruck and flanker Alando Soakai crossed untouched.

Cipriani knocked over a penalty but the Highlanders swept down field to score the third try of the half right on halftime.

The Highlanders threw the ball in quickly and Smith again made a nice bust in the midfield.

Soakai kept the charge going forward and the ball was moved wide to wing Siale Piutau, who went over in the corner.

Straight after the break and the Highlanders were in again. After spinning the ball from side to side, Piutau picked the ball up from a breakdown and proceeded to snake his way over from 20m out.

That gave the Highlanders some real confidence and a four-try bonus point.

The Rebels were handicapped before they took the field when captain Stirling Mortlock pulled out injured and had to be replaced by James Hilgendorf and the former Australian captain was greatly missed.

The scores

Highlanders 40
Siale Piutau 2, Adam Thomson 2, Alando Soakai, Kade Poki tries; Robbie Robinson 2 pen 2 con

Rebels 18
Hugh Pyle, Greg Somerville tries; Danny Cipriani 2 pen con

Halftime: 22-6

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