Super Rugby 2019: Highlanders thrash Waratahs in Invercargill

The Highlanders have thrashed the Waratahs 49-12 in Invercargill to keep their Super Rugby playoff hopes alive.

A NSW Waratahs Super Rugby season marked by off-field strife has ended with an on-field capitulation.

All the damage came in the first half as the hosts ran in six tries to one.

Trailing 42-7 at the break, the Waratahs' resolved stiffened and they created a smart try to five-eighth Mack Mason before Rob Thompson had the final say for the hosts.

Daryl Gibson's young side were never a chance of atoning for a lethargic opening 40 minutes in which their discipline and defence were highly suspect.

It was a limp end to a season dominated by the Israel Folau social media post affair, robbing them of their premier attacking asset as well as creating a negative vibe around Gibson's men.

Their losses had at least been close affairs but they were prised open too easily in their finale, conceding the third-biggest points haul in their 165-game Super Rugby history.

The bonus point win lifts the Highlanders from 11th to fifth in the congested mid-table standings but they will still need other results to fall their way if they are to qualify for next week's quarter-finals.

The Waratahs had a playoff shot themselves going in but that was extinguished from the outset as the home side took charge up front and began playing with ambition that belied the heavy conditions.

Fullback Josh McKay bagged the opener when Waratahs flanker Will Miller failed to control a long kick and it was 14-0 when winger Tevita Li stepped through the tackle of opposite Cam Clark.

Tom Franklin and Waisake Naholo doubled that advantage before Waratahs fullback Alex Newsome completed a move started by Mason's cross-kick to Curtis Rona.

Any prospect of a fightback was snuffed out when the Highlanders were awarded a penalty try, resulting in a yellow card to Tom Robertson after the Wallabies prop cynically halted a lineout drive.