Rebels cop a Highlanders fling

Getty Images     16 Apr 2011     Getty Images

Friday night's 40-18 thumping of the Melbourne Rebels at AAMI Park takes the Dunedin-based team's win-loss record to 6-2, uncharted territory for an outfit more accustomed to being towards the foot of the table in recent seasons.

But on what they presented away from home and without key playmaker Colin Slade for all but five minutes, brighter fortunes certainly await the Highlanders this campaign.

Slade was taken to hospital with a suspected jaw injury, but his replacement Robbie Robinson ensured the visitors didn't skip a beat and also earned a bonus point which moves the Highlanders up to third on the overall ladder.

Not that Robinson enjoyed a dream evening, with his right boot tempering the stand-in first five-eighth's contribution, kicking four goals from 11 attempts (two from six conversions, two from five penalties).

But even Robinson's wonky radar couldn't temper the quality of the Highlanders performance as they dictated terms throughout, crossing for six tries.

Flanker Adam Thomson and winger Siale Piutau both crossed for two tries, with a 60-metre effort by Thomson 10 minutes from time proving the match highlight.

The All Black gathered the ball from inside his own half and after beating some flimsy Rebels cover defence, outsprinted Danny Cipriani to score in the corner.

Melbourne was guilty of some soft defence in the lead-up to a number of Highlanders tries, particularly in the early stages of the second-half.

Piutau's second was evidence of that as the winger strolled through Cooper Vuna, Nick Phipps and Cipriani like they weren't even there.

Even at that stage the home side was staring down the barrel, having trailed 22-6 at the break following two tries in the space of four minutes that broke the Rebels resistance.

Outside flanker Alando Soakai sparked the burst in the 36th minute and Piutai virtually crossed for his first right on the half-time hooter.

The only bright spots for the home side came during the final 15 minutes with forwards Hugh Pyle and Greg Somerville scoring consolation tries to keep the encouraging 18,739 crowd happy.

Pyle scored his second five-pointer in as many matches in the 65th minute before Somerville scored his maiden try in Rebels colours just five minutes later.

The loss leaves the Rebels 3-5 and they remain in ninth place overall.

Highlanders 40 (Sione Piutau 2, Adam Thomson 2, Kade Poki, Alando Soakai tries; Robbie Robinson 2 con, 2 pen) Melbourne Rebels 18 (Hugh Pile, Greg Somerville tries; Danny Cipriani con, pen). HT: 6-22