1 Apr 2017

Highlanders thump the Rebels

5:32 am on 1 April 2017

The Melbourne Rebels' horror Super Rugby season has continued, crashing to a 51-12 loss to the Highlanders to continue their winless start to the 2017 campaign.

Malakai Fekitoa of the Highlanders makes a break during the Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and Chiefs, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, Saturday, July 16, 2016

Malakai Fekitoa scored two tries as the Highlanders trounced the Rebels. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

With Australian conference places in doubt for 2018, the Rebels did themselves no favours in an embarrassing display at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium.

It completed a clean sweep of losses against New Zealand teams, after also going down to the Blues, Hurricanes and Chiefs before this loss to the last-placed Kiwi outfit.

A week ago against the Waratahs, Melbourne delivered their best half of the season, but the first 40 minutes against the Highlanders was the worst.

The Highlanders raced to a 20-0 lead through two tries and the boot of five- eighth Marty Banks.

The Rebels' statistics were the stuff of nightmares for coach Tony McGahan.

They only had 37 per cent of possession and territory and looked lazy in defence with 13 missed tackles to the home side's four.

They lost two tightheads, which led to the tries, and made 10 handling errors which meant they were unable to build any pressure on the Highlanders.

Winger Tom English scored in the 52nd minute and Reece Hodge in the 79th in a couple of bright moments but the rest of the second half was one way traffic, much like the first.

The Highlanders ran in a further four tries as they locked away their bonus point, with centre Malakai Fekitoa adding a second after also opening the scoring.

Twisting the knife, their last came through reserve hooker Greg Pleasants-Tate after the final hooter, with the successful conversion bringing up the home side's half century.

The win was a fitting way to celebrate halfback Aaron Smith's 100th Super Rugby game.

"It was good to score those tries and put away one of the weakest teams in the competition," Highlanders coach Tony Brown said.

"We didn't quite get the rub of the green in our first two games at home, so it's great to win this game at home and get a bonus point try.

The Highlanders are now fourth in the New Zealand Conference with three wins and three losses.

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