Job done. Now the agonising wait begins.

This disappointing Highlanders campaign finished the regular season on an uplifting note, thumping the woeful Waratahs in Invercargill to keep their playoff hopes alive.

If only the Highlanders had brought this same intent and clinical finishing prowess prior to tonight. Then, maybe, they wouldn't be in the finals predicament they find themselves in.

Needing a bonus point to have any hope of sneaking into the top six, the Highlanders ticked that box early after running in three tries in 18 minutes.


By the end of the first half, they doubled their try-scoring tally to lead 42-7. It was a one way procession.

Aaron Mauger's men must now wait and hope. They need other fixtures this weekend – the Chiefs to not get a bonus point win against the Rebels in Melbourne and results from the two South African derbies – to go their way.

Specifically, the Highlanders need the Bulls to win and deny the Lions a bonus point, and the Stormers to defeat the Sharks.

In truth, the Highlanders will know it should not have come to this. Anything can happen in those matches.

Should the Highlanders miss the finals, it will be a case of ruing the two draws against the Bulls and Chiefs, and their seven losses this season.

Last year they finished with 10 wins. This year they have six.

The Waratahs arrived in the deep south leaving themselves exposed for a good old fashioned hiding – and the Highlanders took full advantage.

With his side out of finals contention, Daryl Gibson rested five Wallabies and the severely-weakened Waratahs were duly dealt to.


Their attack, other than one cross-field kick which created a try and first-five Mack Mason finishing another movement, was pedestrian and predictable.

Defence was not much better, either.

When Waisake Naholo bumped him off, former Wallabies utility Adam Ashley-Cooper must have wondered why he returned to Super Rugby.

The Highlanders, as you'd expect with such dominance, had many impressive performers. Their scrum, as it has been for much of the season, marched forward with consummate ease.

Josh Ioane kicked superbly; Tom Franklin was busy. Liam Coltman celebrated his 100th Super Rugby match with a number of strong carries and on edges Tevita Li and Naholo had a field day.

Waisake Naholo scores the Highlanders fourth try against the Waratahs at Rugby Park. Photo / Photo / Getty
Waisake Naholo scores the Highlanders fourth try against the Waratahs at Rugby Park. Photo / Photo / Getty

From an All Blacks perspective, though, the sight of Liam Squire on the charge after barging through Mason and Waratahs wing Cam Clark with separate carries was the most pleasing aspect of this match.

After a disrupted, frustrating, season Squire, in his second match back, was a man possessed before being replaced by fellow All Blacks blindside Shannon Frizell after 48 minutes.

The hit Squire put on Clark in the second half epitomised his aggressive physicality the All Blacks so crave from his position, though it also appeared to damage his shoulder in what will be a minor concern for Steve Hansen.

After being treated to six first half tries locals grew restless during the flat second half.

With the result well sealed defensively the Highlanders were tested much more – Mason grabbing a late try after Naholo attempted an intercept to ease the embarrassment, somewhat, given this was the heaviest defeat in Gibson's four years in charge.

But there was only ever one side in this match. It could hardly be called a contest.

Rob Thompson finished the job with the Highlanders' only try of the second half and, in a nice touch for a departing local lad, Elliot Dixon knocked over the final conversion to complete the convincing demolition.

If only that had been the story of the Highlanders' season – then finals fate would not be out of their hands.

Highlanders 49 (Josh McKay, Tevita Li, Tom Franklin, Waisake Naholo, penalty try, Teihorangi Walden, Rob Thompson tries; Josh Ioane 6 cons, Elliot Dixon con)
Waratahs 12 (Alex Newsome, Mack Mason tries; Mason con)
HT: 42-7