Throughout Super Rugby Aotearoa, the Highlanders struggled to find consistency and it showed.
Despite finishing fourth of the five teams, the southerners chalked up wins against the finalists but also dropped both games against the last-placed Hurricanes.
Heading into Super Rugby Transtasman with a fresh slate, Highlanders halfback Aaron Smith admitted the new competition was a chance at "a bit of redemption and a fresh start".
That's what the side got in their first-round win over the Reds, claiming a 40-19 bonus-point win over the Australian champions in Dunedin on Friday night.
Round one recap:
Highlanders storm home to thrash Reds in opener
Hurricanes beat Waratahs in wild 112-point clash
Crusaders cling on to edge Brumbies
Brilliant Blues run riot in big win over Rebels
Chiefs complete NZ sweep after holding off Force
"We had a great review last week around the Aotearoa comp — where we got things right, where we got things wrong — and we tried to really build a consistent week from our positives," Smith said after the win.
"We didn't want to show any mercy and give them a chance. We really wanted to make them work and earn everything they got."
That was the case, as the Reds struggled to find a way through the Highlanders defence for most of the match, with two of their tries coming from winger Suliasi Vunivalu on crossfield kicks.
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The Highlanders conceded more turnovers (18 to 14) and penalties (11-9) than the Reds, and the visitors had almost 60 per cent of possession, but the hosts were clinical on attack to score six tries, capitalising on Reds errors and taking advantage of their key opportunities in good field position.
It was the ideal start as they now prepare for the long trip to Perth on Tuesday for next weekend's meeting with the Western Force.
Highlanders coach Clarke Dermody said he was hopeful some of the team's stars would return for the match, with Josh Ioane and Shannon Frizell unavailable for the win over the Reds. Ioane has been nursing an ankle injury, while Frizell was not selected due to an investigation into allegations he assaulted a woman at a local bar.
"[Ioane] is back running now. All indications are he's nearly there, so we're hoping to be able to use him, if not next week, it will definitely be the week after," Dermody said.
"If [Frizell] is available for us, we'll use him for sure. He's one of our best players and he's a guy that is pretty consistent for us as well. As far as I'm aware, we're able to use him next week, but there's obviously an investigation still going on, so we'll see what comes out of it."