Waratahs secure top spot
The Waratahs ran in six tries to rout the Highlanders 44-16 and confirm their position at the top of the Super 15 standings in Sydney.
Rob Horne got the only try of the first half in what turned into a bit of a kicking duel before the break, but any thoughts of it being a tight encounter were soon dashed as Australia internationals Israel Folau and Sekope Kepu ran in fine tries shortly after the interval.
Nick Phipps and Jacques Potgieter touched down to add gloss to the scoreline, before Phil Burleigh caught his own chip through to register a fine consolation effort for the Highlanders. But the final word fell to the hosts as Taqele Naiyaravoro notched his first Super Rugby try.
The Waratahs now cannot be caught at the top of the Super 15 standings and they go into their final regular-season game against the Queensland Reds next week knowing they will have a home semi-final and an extra week off.
The Highlanders were hit with a double blow early on, as scrum-half Aaron Smith was sin-binned for deliberately moving offside in a failed attempt to stop a flowing Waratahs attack that ultimately saw Horne cross to make it 8-0 anyway.
But they managed to hold firm with 14 men as Lima Sopoaga kicked two penalties, with Bernard Foley only adding one more to his earlier three-point effort for the Waratahs, to take it through to half-time.
Folau made his mark two minutes after the restart, busting through three tackles on his way to touch down as the Australian Conference winners took full advantage of a knock-on by Highlanders full-back Ben Smith. Foley added the conversion.
Ten minutes later Alofa Alofa popped to Kepu and the tighthead prop crashed over from close range as things started to look bad for the Highlanders.
Phipps was next to get in on the scoring, with his try sealing the bonus point, before Potgieter touched down after more good work from Kepu. Foley managed to convert both tries.
Substitute Burleigh at least gave the Highlanders something to shout about, exploiting a gaping hole left by Folau, but Naiyaravoro strolled over late on to seal a fine day for the hosts.