Match Centre: Highlanders 40-19 Queensland Reds

Highlanders start their campaign with a win
Highlanders start their campaign with a win

Highlanders 40-19 Reds, Forsyth Barr Stadium

Highlanders came up with a six-try performance as they kick-started their Super Rugby Trans-Tasman campaign with convincing 40-19 win over Queensland Reds at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Highlanders got off to a promising start with Jona Nareki and Sam Gilbert combined to send Scott Gregory over the line and Mitch Hunt kicked the conversion. The visitors went on to level the scores in the fifth minute when the visitors kicked to the corner after earning a penalty with scrum-half Kalani Thomas touching down and James O'Connor, who won the Super Rugby AU award of the season kicked the extras.

As the half-hour was approaching, Ash Dixon picked up a loose ball from a ruck to dot down and in the 34th minute Sio Tomkinson capitalised on a long pass from Aaron Smith to score their third try. Mitch Hunt kicked kicked both the conversions as the teams went into the break with a 21-7 scoreline.

The start of the second half saw Suliasi Vunivalu and Dixon exchange tries as the home side maintained their 14-point lead. Meanwhile, O'Connor was forced to leave the field after failing a Head Injury Assessment during the break. Reds thought they narrowed down the gap in the 65th minute with Filipo Daugunu scoring over but was denied by TMO for a forward pass in the build up.

As the final 10 minutes kicked off, Liam Coltman extended Highlanders' lead further as he touched down at the back of a driving maul and three minutes later Ngatungane Punivai followed the suit and with Hunt converting both the scoreline became 40-12 before Vunivalu with his second provided some consolation for Reds as they succumbed to a 21-point defeat.

Team line up:

Highlanders: 15 Sam Gilbert, 14 Palelei Tomkinson, 13 Michael Collins, 12 Scott Gregory, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Hugh Renton, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Ayden Johnstone.

Reserves: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Ethan De Groot, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Bryn Evans, 20 James Lentjes, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Tim O'Malley, 23 Ngatugnane Punivai.

Queensland Reds: 15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 13 Josh Flook, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Jock Campbell, 10 James O'Connor 9 Kalani Thomas, 8 Seru Uru, 7 Liam Wright, 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Angus Blyth, 4 Ryan Smith, 3 Feao Fotuaika, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Dane Zander.

Reserves: 16 Josh Nasser, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 20 Fraser McReight, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Isaac Henry, 23 Suliasi Vunivalu.