The Highlanders have bounced back into the Super 15 in style, scoring 31 second half points to trounce the Rebels 43-12 in their Super Rugby match at Rugby Park Stadium in Invercargill tonight.
Despite suffering their first defeat in five games last weekend to the Brumbies and making five changes to their injury hit side, the Highlanders produced an inspired performance against a tired looking Rebels defence.
It was a slow start for the Highlanders who were unable to use long periods of early possession to pierce the Rebels defence. It wasn't until the yellow-card dismissal of Lloyd Johansson in the 23rd minute that the momentum shifted in the Highlanders favour, but once they got going they never looked back.
Jamie Mackintosh, Aaron Thomson (3), Kade Poki and Ben Smith (2) all touched down for the Highlanders in their largest points-grab of the season.
James O'Conner produced an inspired first half kicking performance for the Rebels, punishing the Highlanders high penalty count by converting four out of his first five kicks.
But the Highlanders replied with some style of their own, Thomson and Smith both finding space out wide to touch down, after sustained series of pressure on the Rebels defence.
Locked 12-12 at halftime, Jamie Joseph's halftime talk had the desired effect as the Highlanders came out flying, Thomson touching down for his second within two minutes of the restart to give the Highlanders a five point lead.
Two minutes later Poki increased the margin, getting on the end of a clever Aaron Smith box-kick to touch down in the corner, before Chris Noakes completed the difficult wide conversion.
A converted try from skipper Mackintosh was complimented by Ben Smith's second of the evening before Aaron Thomson got his hat-trick, increasing the gap to 31 points.
Highlanders 43 (Adam Thomson 3, Ben Smith, Kade Poki, Jamie Mackintosh tries, Chris Noakes 4 con) Rebels 12 (James O'Connor 4 pen)