Highlanders sneak into playoffs after final day drama

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sunday, 16 June 2019, 9:20AM
Aaron Smith and Waisake Naholo of the Highlanders celebrate. Photo / Photosport
Aaron Smith and Waisake Naholo of the Highlanders celebrate. Photo / Photosport

The Super Rugby quarter-finals have been set after a dramatic final morning that saw the Highlanders sneak into the final spot after other results went their way.

Still needing things to fall in their favour after they secured a bonus point win over the Waratahs on Friday night, the Highlanders had some good fortune, with their 36 points good enough to take eighth spot, and book a trip to play the Crusaders next weekend.

They had the Bulls to thank, who denied the Lions a bonus point, leaving the Lions - who finished runner-up the last three seasons - out of the playoffs.

One point would have been enough for the Lions to steal eighth spot from the Highlanders. At 31-13 down, it didn't look likely, but they dragged the deficit back to 31-27, only to flounder in the last 20 minutes and lose 48-27.

The Bulls' victory saw them move into fifth, now having to travel to play the Hurricanes in Wellington in their quarter-final clash.

The Sharks also snuck into the playoffs after some late drama. A try after the final hooter from Lukhanyo Am earned them a 12-9 win over the Stormers in an ugly encounter, vaulting the Sharks into the finals and leaving the Stormers on the outer.

A trip to play the Brumbies is the Sharks' reward, while the Chiefs will visit the Jaguares in Argentina.

Super Rugby quarter-finals

1) Crusaders v 8) Highlanders - Friday 21 June, 7.35pm, Christchurch
4) Hurricanes v 5) Bulls - Saturday 22 June, 7.35pm, Wellington
3) Brumbies v 6) Sharks - Saturday 22 June, 10.05pm, Canberra
2) Jaguares v 7) Chiefs - Sunday 23 June, 10.05am, Buenos Aires