A sizzling double to wing Waisake Naholo has helped halt the Highlanders’ Super Rugby losing streak against the Crusaders with a 25-20 win in Christchurch.
The Highlanders went down in the previous six editions of the South Island derby but a purple patch either side of halftime sealed victory, fighting back after trailing 14-3 through 20 minutes.
It included two tries in six minutes after the break to Naholo, giving him a competition-leading five for the season.
The Fijian-born 23-year-old showed how much he will be missed when he leaves for a French club contract at season’s end, knocking the stuffing out of the hosts with a 60m intercept try in the 45th minute.
He grabbed his second soon afterwards after a clever switch from halfback Aaron Smith.
The Crusaders were only able to respond through two Colin Slade penalties over the last half-hour.
A fifth win in seven games ensures the Highlanders are fifth overall in the standings.
The Crusaders, who beat their southern rivals 26-20 in round two, continue an erratic campaign.
A fourth loss from eight games means they are likely to drop from their sixth placing by the completion of round nine.
They began like a team coming off a 52-10 win over the Sharks in Durban last week, playing with width and verve to create early tries to flankers Matt Todd and Jordan Taufua.
Highlanders five-eighth Lima Sopoaga was shown a yellow card for a shoulder charge in the lead-up to the first try but he rebounded to enjoy a fine game, including 10 points with the boot.
His line break from deep in the 39th minute sent Highlanders fullback Ben Smith over in a move which came against the run of play after the home side had dominated much of the first spell.
All Blacks greats Dan Carter and Richie McCaw were introduced early in the second spell but they didn’t have the impact Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder would’ve hoped for.
The Highlanders’ defence stood firm, denying prop Owen Franks a win in his 100th Super Rugby game for the Crusaders.