Departing All Black Elliot Dixon nails conversion to wrap up Highlanders' big win over Waratahs

A NSW Waratahs Super Rugby season marked by off-field strife has ended with an on-field capitulation, thrashed 49-12 by the Highlanders in Invercargill.

All the damage came in a disastrous first half tonight when a visiting side weakened by the resting of several senior Wallabies leaked six tries, several of which were worryingly soft.

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 sixth 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.

With that in mind, the team gave a potential parting gift to long-time Highlander Elliot Dixon, who stepped up to take the final conversion after the full-time hooter which he slotted with ease.

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.

The match was the last before Rona, Miller and halfback Nick Phipps take up offshore club deals, along with veteran prop Sekope Kepu who was among the Wallabies group handed a rest.

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