They scored four tries in the first half and saw the Jaguares score twice in the second half with two penalty goals landed by first five-eighths Josh Ioane giving the Highlanders the buffer to hold on for the win – a big boost ahead of the tour to South Africa.
In spite of the height advantage the Jaguares enjoyed, the home lineout operated smoothly to allow the Highlanders to make use of their set-piece to good effect, especially in the first half.
It was the visitors who scored first.
Known for their own ability to create something from nothing, the Highlanders were on the receiving end after a kick from centre Rob Thompson failed to stretch the Jaguares defence. Wing Ramiro Moyano fielded it and linked with fellow wing Sebastian Cancelliere, who was able to step through the Highlanders loose forwards and run into space.
Challenged, he kicked to the corner where centre Matias Moroni waited for the bounce and went over in the tackle 12 minutes into the game.
Second five-eighths Patelesio Tomkinson took a gap in the 29th minute to set up a ruck from which Smith broke from the base before linking back inside to Tomkinson who capped the move with a backhand pass to fullback Matt Faddes to claim the lead for the home team.
While first five-eighths Joaquin diaz Bonilla landed a second penalty goal to claim a 13-12 lead, the Jaguares muffed the kick-off and had to scramble to their own line to try to tidy the ball. However, the Highlanders swarmed through to the ruck and gained a penalty advantage, but when the ball was released Ioane went far enough through a gap before slipping the ball to Tomkinson to score.
To rub in their advantage the Highlanders took advantage of a defensive penalty conceded by the Jaguares when wing Cancilliere was ruled offside. The kick to the corner was an automatic lineout maul from which hooker Liam Coltman emerged for the try and a halftime lead of 26-13.
The Jaguares stormed out from halftime, lifting their tempo and creating quick ball which resulted in lock Marcos Kremer scoring within a minute of the restart.
But two Ioane penalty goals extended the lead. However, the experienced Jaguares bench was unleashed and after some forcing back played by the two sides tactical kickers, the chance was provided when replacement hooker Agustin Creevy, No.8 Javier Ortego Desio and replacement Pablo Matera combined to give Moyano the slighted of chances. He got outside Smith's tackle with sheer speed to score.
Both teams battled for the final advantage but the determination of the home team proved enough to hold some strong Jaguares assaults and it was the Highlanders who finished with the win.
Scorers: Highlanders 32 (James Lentjes, Matt Faddes, Patelesio Tomkinson, Liam Coltman tries; Josh Ioane 3 con, 2 pen) Jaguares 27 (Matias Moroni, Ramiro Moyano, Marcos Kremer tries; Joaquin diaz Bonilla 2 con, 2 pen). HT: 26-13