Highlanders coach Tony Brown's instincts bore fruit in Dunedin on Friday.

Not only did his side secure a 61-10 Super Rugby Pacific win over the Force, but his rookie first five-eighths Sam Gilbert produced a consummate display.

Brown, who opted to start Sam Gilbert at first five-eighths for the first time, said he had produced a polished performance, capped by a faultless goal-kicking display.

"Everything he did on the park he did really well and executed everything that we wanted him to do. I think he's proved himself to be a quality player."

The physicality he brought was something the Highlanders haven't had in the position, and he did a great job.

Brown said that for Gilbert to succeed, everyone else had to step up, and by achieving that it made Gilbert's job easier.

Gilbert said the forwards got rolling early and made his job easier. He had enjoyed the assignment.

"It was awesome for us to play some running rugby and showcase a bit of flair, and what we've been missing the last few weeks as well."

He said he had been more nervous than he had been for a while because of the different challenges.

He hadn't been surprised when chosen because he had played there before, but he understood it may have been a surprise to most others.

He concentrated on how he could help halfback Aaron Smith and how he could give the players outside him what they needed.

As far as his goal kicking was concerned, he said he kicked every week, so it was nice to have the chance to do it in a game.

Brown said it was a timely win for the Highlanders who cemented their top eight place.

"When you score 50 points and get a bonus point win you've got to be pretty stoked as a coach," he said.

Brown was delighted with the way all players involved had stepped up.

"When you do that as a rugby team, you're scoring tries and I couldn't be more proud of the start we had," he said.

"We've had a brutal last four games, short turnaround after short turnaround with lots of travel mixed in between. Our team has grown, and our leadership has grown as well. The players just want to play well and win games. We're starting to create a bit of momentum and hopefully get our mojo back."