Highlanders secure spot in Super Rugby Pacific finals with win over Drua

Sun, May 26, 2024, 4:57 AM
AFP
by AFP

Highlanders cemented a place in the Super Rugby quarter-finals with a 39-3 thumping of Fijian Drua on Sunday, leaving four teams to fight for the last playoff berth.

The home side ran in five unanswered tries in Dunedin to notch their biggest win of the season and leave Drua among the sides battling for survival in next weekend's final round of matches.

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It was a day to remember for the Highlanders' outside backs as they capitalised on a wealth of attacking opportunities.

Fijian-born wings Jona Nareki and Timoci Tavatavanawai combined for three tries, two of them for Nareki, while fullback Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens crossed once and created two tries with his passing.

Substitute Nikora Broughton completed the scoring with a late intercept try as the New Zealand side climbed to sixth in the table with the top eight reaching the playoff quarter-finals.

Drua, who have lost all seven of their away matches this season, remain eighth and in control of their own destiny.

Victory over the seventh-placed Melbourne Rebels in Lautoka on Saturday would guarantee them a quarter-final spot.

Any other result would leave the door open for the teams ranked ninth to 11th -- Western Force, Crusaders and Moana Pasifika -- to grab the final spot.

Defending champions Crusaders and Moana will meet in Christchurch on Friday while Western Force host the third-placed ACT Brumbies on Saturday.

Drua captain Tevita Ikanivere said his team will need to improve considerably against the Rebels at home, where his side have won five of their six matches this season.

"It's going to be a big game. We'll just learn from our mistakes and get our rucks sorted so we can beat the Rebels," he said.

"We couldn't get any flow today because the Highlanders did a good job of disrupting our ruck."

Highlanders captain Billy Harmon hailed his side's sixth win this season as their best performance.

"The pressure was on, we talked about being clinical and knowing our role," he said.

"It's awesome to do it in what was probably our last home game of the year."

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