Highlanders too strong for Force
John Hardie and Aaron Smith crossed for second-half tries as the Highlanders halted their losing run at the hands of the Western Force with a resounding win in Perth.
Having lost their last six Super Rugby encounters with the same opponents, this time the team from Dunedin got it right as they took a 23-3 victory from their trip to Western Australia.
Given the Force's struggles towards the foot of the table this season, it came as little surprise, with the Highlanders backing up their play-off potential thanks to a strong second-half showing.
Lima Sopoaga booted a 16th-minute penalty to open the scoring for the visitors, soon matched by the Force's Sias Ebersohn.
Strong defence from the Highlanders was keeping the eager Force at bay, and the New Zealand side forged ahead for the second time after the half-time siren sounded with another penalty from Sopoaga.
Flanker Hardie grabbed the breakthrough try in the 45th minute, after a rolling maul from the Highlanders saw him over the line out wide, and when Sopoaga added the conversion the lead was up to 10 points.
The away side enjoyed a dominant spell without adding to their points haul by further penetrating the Force rearguard.
Finally the game was put to bed when Sopoaga slotted a drop goal in the 72nd minute and, almost immediately, Smith snatched the second try of the evening.
He made the pressure count on the scoreboard by putting the finishing touch to another purposeful venture into Force territory.
The Highlanders are battling the Chiefs for second place in the New Zealand conference, as both teams aim for the play-offs, and they go head to head at Forsyth Barr Stadium next week. The Chiefs hold the edge by one point with three rounds of matches remaining.