Highlanders 40 Sunwolves 15

It was a slow start but a less sluggish finish from the Highlanders and as expected, they ended up destroying the Sunwolves.

Equally expected was the energy and heart the Sunwolves brought as they did their level best to compensate for their lack of physicality, cohesion and class.

On one level they are a side that has to be admired for having the courage to pick themselves up every week and give it all they have got. But the more pressing feeling is Super Rugby wasn't set up as a development school.

The pinnacle tournament of the Southern Hemisphere shouldn't really have to lower itself to congratulate certain teams for trying hard or for keeping the score to within 25 points.


And that's why one should take any particular joy in the Highlanders victory - not even the Highlanders who know they spent the first 50 minutes being loose, unstructured and a little ill-disciplined.

It was probably more than 50 minutes really. They didn't have much shape or direction in the first 50 minutes, but even once they fixed that, their game was beset by wild moments and sloppiness.

Their defence fell away. They weren't able to deal with the high ball and their retention was poor.

They won't be happy - it was probably their worst performance of the season and that's because deep down, the Highlanders players knew they were always going to win. They knew they were always going to find a way to get over the top of the Sunwolves and land the required five points.

And that's the problem with having the Sunwolves in this competition. New Zealand teams don't need to take them seriously and can come way off the boil mentally.

The urgency and intensity the Highlanders normally produce was nowhere to be seen. They didn't get off the line the way they usually do and their handling was laboured, their running a little uncertain.

The Sunwolves can be satisfied they played their part in that. They kept things how they wanted them - fast and disorderly.

They hurried the Highlanders, counter-rucked well and did enough to be troublesome.

But the Highlanders were a much bigger danger to themselves. They gave the impression they were lacking urgency and focus.

Not by much, but by enough to be guilty of making endless sloppy mistakes that prevented them from taking hold of the game. The Highlanders were generally loose, but particularly so around the ruck where they were slow to make their minds up about what they wanted to do.

As disappointed as they will be, it is unlikely they will dwell on things for too long. They know that as soon as they encounter a better team again, that will naturally lift their focus and intensity and they will revert back to their usual game.

The edge will come back - or at least it will have to because if the Highlanders are that loose against anyone else, they will be in a bit of trouble.

Highlanders 40 (M. Fekitoa, L. Squire, A. Smith, M. Faddes (2), B. Smith tries; M. Banks 5 cons)
Sunwolves 15 (W. Britz, R. Vosayaco tries; Y. Tamura con, pen)
Halftime: 21-3