HIGHLANDERS 51 d. REBELS 12 @ FORSYTH BARR STADIUM
THE MATCH: It was like teenagers playing professionals. A 51-12 scoreline sounds like the Highlanders attacked from all over the park. But the Rebels were awful and invited this thrashing. They played side-to-side football rather than trying to gain any ascendancy up front first. The game was over inside half an hour.
The ‘Landers played solid, structured rugby. They chased kicks well. They used their forward pack to get good dominance. After scrappiness and poor handling from both sides in the first 10 minutes, the Highlanders settled in and took points when they could. By the 25th minute, they led 20-0 thanks to two tries (Richard Buckman and Malakai Fekitoa) and a couple of Marty Banks penalties.
Melbourne tried hard but silly errors blighted their momentum, such as players putting their foot on the sidelines in possession and throwing no-look passes deep on their goal line. The second half followed the same script. They got a couple of tries, but the Highlanders kept working hard. Reserve hooker Greg Pleasants-Tate’s try in the 81st minute typified their effort.
THE MAN: Aaron Smith. The little halfback punctuated his 100th Super Rugby game with clever kicking and smooth passing. He looks back to his best.
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) 31 March 2017
THE MOMENT: When Malakai Fekitoa played Superman. The Rebels’ outside backs decided to lethargically move the ball wide off a Smith kick in the 71st minute. Fekitoa anticipated a pass meant for Marika Koroibete. He flew threw the air, grabbed the ball and raced forty metres to score, hint of red cape and all.