The Highlanders geared up for the Super Rugby quarter-finals with a resounding 40-17 win over Reds in Dunedin, while Mitch Inman’s Rebels career ended in a 32-29 home defeat to Jaguares on Friday.
The 2015 champions outscored their opponents from Queensland by six tries to three in their final match of the regular season at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
Returning wing Waisake Naholo put Highlanders in front with an early try after a break from the fit-again Liam Squire and James Lentjes added a second five-pointer as the home side surged into a 14-0 lead inside 10 minutes.
Kayne Hammington powered his way over for a third try from the back of the scrum before Izack Rodda went over at the other end, reducing the deficit to 21-5 at half-time.
Tevita Li and Ash Dixon added further tries either side of a penalty try for the rampant Highlanders following the interval and, although Alex Mafi and Caleb Timu crossed for Reds, they ended a disappointing campaign with another defeat.
Tony Brown’s men must now wait to discover who their opponents will be in a play-off encounter, which will definitely be away from home.
Meanwhile, Santiago Cordero scored a try in each half as the Jaguares fought back to defeat the sorry Rebels 32-29 at Melbourne’s AAMI Park, despite Reece Hodge’s 22-point haul.
Rebels were unable to give long-serving Oyonnax-bound centre Inman a winning send-off, conceding three second-half tries in his 100th Super Rugby match to slump to yet another loss.
Hodge scored a try and 17 points from the tee, but Jaguares rallied from 22-13 down with just over 20 minutes to play to edge it, Cordero helping himself to a double as Steve Cummins’ late score was in vain.
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