Centre Scott Gregory crossed for two tries as the Highlanders trudged to a 25-15 Super Rugby Trans-Tasman win against the Western Force in Perth on Friday.
The Highlanders backed up their impressive thrashing of the Reds, Australian champs, with a less inspiring road victory over the winless Force, prevailing in a physical contest with four tries to two.
‘We put a lot of pressure on them but our execution wasn’t there at times,’ Highlanders co-captain Ash Dickson said.
The Force, the big improvers in the recent Super Rugby AU, were gallant but could not reel in an early 20-3 deficit.
‘We just couldn’t get there in the end and we weren’t clinical enough,’ Force stand-in captain Kyle Godwin said.
It was an arm-wrestle early before the home fans were silenced in the 12th minute when Aaron Smith found a dashing Jona Nareki for a sizzling try.
Force flyhalf Jake McIntyre exited the game after a hit to the head early in the second quarter and the Highlanders compounded the misery when Ayden Johnstone crashed over the line.
The aggressive Highlanders stretched their lead further with a try through Scott Gregory only for Mitchell Hunt’s tardy boot to keep the Force within range.
Against the tide, the Force hit back with Tomas Cubelli celebrating his 50th game in style before the break.
They made a determined charge early in the second half but a yellow card to Greg Holmes stymied the Force’s momentum and Gregory made them pay with his second try.
The Highlanders were never threatened despite a late Force push to notch consecutive victories for the first time in more than two years.