Liam Squire out for six weeks

An injury setback for the inform Highlanders Super Rugby team.

The unbeaten Southerners will be without All Black loose forward Liam Squire for up to six weeks because of injury.

Squire broke the thumb in his right hand during last night's 25-17 over the Crusaders in Dunedin.

The injury occurred in the first half and Squire was replaced by Elliot Dixon just before halftime.

A Highlanders statement said Squire, who has played 15 tests, will be side-lined for up to 6 weeks.

That will result in him missing games against the Hurricanes, Chiefs, Brumbies, Blues and Bulls.

The injury is slightly offset for the Highlanders by the return of flanker Elliot Dixon.

Dixon provided a vital second-half spark with some storming runs and a try while his side was reduced to 14-men to give them the win over the Crusaders.

First-five Lima Sopoaga added a try and slotted two late penalties for the home side, who moved to the top of the New Zealand conference with their third straight victory.

The Crusaders were defeated just once last year on the way to a record-extending eighth Super Rugby title but have now lost successive games after they were beaten 29-19 by the Wellington Hurricanes last week.

They failed to take advantage of having an extra man early in the second half when All Blacks winger Waisake Naholo was sin-binned for a head-high tackle on Heiden Bedwell-Curtis.

While the Highlanders had bossed the early exchanges, the Crusaders opened the scoring from a well-worked move with winger George Bridge ghosting through a gap from the blindside.

The Highlanders, who were dominating the collisions, however, replied with Liam Coltman and Lima Sopoaga both crossing in quick succession to give them a 14-7 lead.

Mitch Hunt narrowed the gap to 14-10 with a 20th-minute penalty that ended the first half scoring despite a frantic tussle up to the break, highlighted by plenty of attacking intent, punishing spot tackles and lightning counter attacks.

The Crusaders were unable to capitalise on Naholo's absence as the home side extended their lead when Dixon was put over after props Siate Tokolahi and Aki Seiuli had produced storming open-field runs and superb passes to put runners into space.

The defending champions, however, struck back when nothing appeared on after winger Manasa Mataele was put into space, chipped ahead and re-gathered the ball, shrugged off Sopoaga and fed a rampaging Bryn Hall to reduce the deficit to 19-17.

Sopoaga, however, added two penalties to give his side an eight-point advantage that ensured there would be no repeat of last year when the Crusaders snatched two victories against them at the death.