All their talk before the game was about having a better start, so coach Leon MacDonald is looking for a more complete effort in their next game against Moana Pasifika at Mt Smart Stadium on Tuesday.
But, there will be doubt about first five-eighths Beauden Barrett's ability to play. He was forced from the field not long after scoring a trademark try. As a result of his recent concussion history, he will be closely watched.
"He's got a good fat lip and a bleeding nose, and hopefully it's nothing much more than that so we'll have to track him and see how he turns up," he said.
Barrett had been on the end of some 'brutal carries' by the Highlanders during the second half, MacDonald said.
It had been a 'no-brainer' to take from the field.
"We're never going to take any chances with Beauden. We want to look after his health and make sure he's well so it was an automatic decision," he said.
His replacement Steven Perofeta did a great job, and had x-factor with his running game, he said.
"His goal-kicking has been world-class and he's starting to control the game well so we're pretty fortunate there," he said.
Perofeta's try came at a critical time as the Highlanders were starting to show some confidence.
"He's a good all-round player, we're seeing him grow every year as a player. He's trying to get through a lot more work off the ball because we know good he is on the ball and I think defensively he was pretty big tonight as well," he said.
MacDonald said he was relieved when the final whistle blew. The game had been another that went down to the dying stages.
"It was a great game of rugby, I thought both teams tried to play with the ball," he said.
"The Highlanders showed a lot of guts and character. Both teams looked a little bit tired. Some lingering effects of Covid potentially meant they weren't at their best of condition, but in terms of their mental fortitude, I thought the Highlanders kept coming back.
"We felt we'd make the killer blow then straight away we were back defending our line and conceding points. It's always hard down here, I've had more losses than wins and although it wasn't pretty at the end I'm pretty pleased to walk away with one [a win]," he said.
Much of the second half was spent on defence, and he felt that was due to a lack of zip, and when the Highlanders sniffed blood, they went in for the kill.
"We wouldn't have wanted to go into the 90th minute this week," he said.