Sportal.co.nz 31.Mar.2012Getty Images
It was 12-all and anyone's game at halftime but the Highlanders scored 31 unanswered points in the second spell as they reduced errors, conceded fewer penalties and played field position.
Eventually they ran in seven tries to none to beat the Rebels 43-12.
"Jamie (coach Jamie Joseph) wasn't angry at halftime," captain Jamie Makintosh said. "He basically told us we had been playing the wrong kind of rugby in the wrong part of the field.
"We played more field position in the second half, Aaron Smith kicked well from halfback and put pressure on them and, once we got into their half, we were away laughing. The boys executed well and I was really proud of them.
"We hadn't been far away from opening up an opposition team and the display tonight built our confidence. Our cleanout at the ruck was much better.
"We've got the Stormers in Dunedin next week and that was one of our hardest games last year. We're really going to have to get up for a big battle there."
Mackintosh said 2011 All Black lock Jarrad Hoeata, who played his first game of the year, came through well.
"I thought Jarrad was outstanding. He did his core job well and carried the ball strongly. And Adam Thomson really showed the benefit of his week off the way he played. He was on fire."
Thomson, who was rested for the match against the Brumbies last week, quipped afterwards that maybe he should play one week on, one week off.
"We talked about building up pressure and we were able to open up holes when we did. We had more patience in the second spell.
"We couldn't kick goals (four out of 10) but we scored tries (seven) so that was good. Our backs are starting to gel, we've got some strike power out there and it's good to have a comfortable win rather than having to go to the wire every week."
The Highlanders have 22 points from five wins and a loss and the Rebels have 10 points from a win, four losses and a bye. The Rebels' next match is against the Blues in Melbourne next Friday.