It was another Kiwi domination, as the Highlanders beat the Rebels on Friday night.
What have we learned from the Dunedin clash?
1. Bottom spot for another week
There are few positives for the Rebels after a fifth 2017 loss on Friday night. The results means they will stay anchored to the bottom of the Super Rugby ladder for the next week, one of only two winless teams in the competition. The Sunwolves, on a bye this week, are the only other team without a victory to this point but sit above the Rebels with a superior points difference.
2.Fatigue strikes early for Rebels
When Rebels captain Nic Stirzaker spoke after their loss to the Waratahs, he was fuming. It was the sort of response you want to see from a skipper and it looked like the reaction that would spark a big response from the Rebels this weekend. Well, 17 Highlanders’ points in as many minutes destroyed that theory, against a Melbourne side that simply looked exhausted and defeated from early on. There were glimpses of intent, but
3. Dom Day defensive demon
He was thrust into the contest well before he had anticipated, coming on for Steve Cummins in the second minute, and the Welsh international did his best to make an impact in defence. He finished with 17 tackles, ahead of hard-working backrowers Amanaki Mafi (12) and Colby Faingaa (12) and his second row partner Culum Retallick (12). Though they leaked a half-century
4. Rebels dropping the ball
Melbourne had little possession across the game, but when they did get their hands on the ball, they coughed it up too easily. Eighteen handling errors to six said it all at full-time, with the Highlanders’ clean hands punishing the Rebels’ sloppy use of the ball.
5.The ‘D’ word strikes again
Depth, depth, depth. We’ve heard it ad nauseam in recent times and you can expect to keep hearing it in the coming days. The Highlanders were without first-choice flyhalf Lima Sopoaga and capped All Blacks Waisake Naholo and Liam Squire when they named their team, then they lost captain Ben Smith late in the week. Enter Richard Buckman, who scored a try, and flyhalf Marty Banks slotted a perfect eight-from-eight off the boot. How about that.