The Highlanders 2012 Super Rugby campaign is over after they suffered a 13-19 loss to a determined Reds side at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane tonight.
Needing a bonus point win to have any chance of making the top six playoffs, Jamie Joseph's men fell short of the mark, scoring two tries but ultimately being undone by the boot of Mike Harris.
The Highlanders finish the season with a bye next weekend and currently sit eight points behind the sixth placed Hurricanes.
The Reds meanwhile have jumped into playoff contention and now need a win next weekend against the Waratahs to sneak into the top six.
All the points came from the boot in a low scoring first half where defence dominated.
Mike Delany kicked the visitors out to an early three point lead before Harris responded by converting two penalties for the Reds - just reward for extended periods of pressure on the Highlanders defensive line.
The Reds were single minded in their approach. They wanted a win and didn't care how they got it -often opting for the safe penalty when the crowd was screaming for an attack on the goal line.
But they finally made their breakthrough in the 57th minute when James Slipper finished off a composed move out wide to send a dagger through Highlanders' hearts.
Adam Thomson replied for the Highlanders soon after breaking the line and touching down, but Delaney missed the simple conversion leaving an eight point deficit which Harris soon extended to 11.
Chris King scored a late try to bring the Highlanders within six but it wasn't enough, and the reds defended bravely as the Highlanders launched a late assault on the Reds' line.
- Herald Online