Cape Town - The Highlanders produced their best performance of the season to thrash
the Waratahs 49-12 in Invercargill on Friday and maintain their hopes
of making the Super Rugby playoffs.
The Highlanders scored seven tries to two in a match where both teams required a bonus point to have any chance of making the final eight.
The result was never in doubt as the Highlanders seized control with a six-try blitz in the first half.
Although they keep their season alive, they still need the Lions to lose against the Bulls or the Chiefs to beat the Melbourne Rebels without a bonus point.
But they could have done no more on the night, making a flying start that stunned the Waratahs.
"We knew we had to score some tries so we've done our part and at times played some really good footy," captain Luke Whitelock said.
While the Highlanders' 52-0 victory over Japan's Sunwolves in April was numerically superior, the way they dismantled the Waratahs showed a class they have struggled to find this year.
The result avenged a quarter-final loss to the Waratahs in Sydney last year, the last time the two teams met.
It also continues a nine-game losing streak in New Zealand for the Sydneysiders, whose last win on Kiwi soil came in 2015.
The Waratahs were without Wallabies Michael Hooper, Rob Simmons, Sekope Kepu, Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale, who were all rested under Rugby Australia policy for a World Cup year.
The loss ends a difficult season for the 'Tahs, marred by the acrimonious mid-season departure of their best player Israel Folau over homophobic comments, which caused numerous off-field distractions.
Fullback Josh McKay made a perfect start for the Highlanders in the seventh minute, kicking the ball from deep in his own half, then sprinting in pursuit and crossing the line.
Winger Tevita Li added another in the left corner three minutes later and the hosts doggedly worked the ball through 19 phases for a third from Tom Franklin.
Waisake Naholo powered his way over the line for a fourth to make it 28-0 after 25 minutes.
A well-taken try for Alex Newsome finally put the Waratahs on the board but their joy was short-lived as the Highlanders were given a penalty try after Tom Robertson pulled down a lineout drive.
Roberson also earned himself a yellow card and Tei Walden notched a sixth extending the Highlanders' lead to 42-7.
Flyhalf Mack Mason added a second for the Waratahs with eight minutes to go but Rob Thompson had the final say for the Highlanders with a try in the last minute.
Tries: Josh McKay, Tevita Li, Tom Franklin, Waisake Naholo, penalty try, Liam Squire, Rob Thompson
Conversions: Josh Ioane (5), Elliot Dixon
Tries: Alex Newsome, Mack Mason
15 Josh McKay, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock (captain), 7 James Lentjes, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ayden Johnstone
Substitutes: 16 Ash Dixon, 17Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Joshua Dickson, 20 Shannon Frizell, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Elliot Dixon
15 Alex Newsome, 14 Cam Clark, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Curtis Rona, 10 Mack Mason, 9 Nick Phipps (captain), 8 Hugh Sinclair, 7 Will Miller, 6 Michael Wells, 5 Tom Staniforth, 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Tom Robertson, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Harry Johnson-Holmes
Substitutes: 16 Andrew Tuala, 17 Rory O’Connor, 18 Shambeckler Vui, 19 Ryan McCauley, 20 Jed Holloway, 21 Jack Dempsey, 22 Jake Gordon, 23 Tautalatasi Tasi