Super Rugby Notebook, Jul 9: Highlanders into play-offs, Stormers win
Highlanders booked their spot in the Super Rugby play-offs thanks to a 34-8 win over Jaguares on Saturday.
Stormers ensured a home play-off thanks to a comfortable 22-3 victory over Western Force, Crusaders are also progressing after an 85-26 triumph over Melbourne Rebels and Hurricanes dented Waratahs' hopes with a 28-17 win.
Seven tries saw Bulls inflict more misery on Sunwolves with a 50-3 win, while Sharks remain in the hunt for a wild card place thanks to a 26-10 victory over Cheetahs.
Crusaders 85-26 Melbourne Rebels
Melbourne Rebels were humiliated in Christchurch as the Crusaders ran in 13 tries. Johnny McNicholl claimed a hat-trick for the rampant hosts, who crossed five times in the opening 20 minutes of an embarrassingly one-sided fixture.
Waratahs 17-28 Hurricanes
Hurricanes were made to work harder for their win over Australian opposition, but ultimately triumphed with a degree of comfort as Beauden Barrett again impressed, scoring the first try on his way to an 18-point haul.
Western Force 3-22 Stormers
Having gone behind early to Jono Lance's penalty, Stormers scored 22 unanswered points to book top spot in the Africa 1 conference - a Kobus Van Wyk double helping them on their way.
Bulls 50-3 Sunwolves
Bulls boosted their hopes of a play-off place with a comprehensive bonus-point win over Sunwolves, Travis Ismaiel running in the final two of their seven tries as they kept themselves in contention to progress.
Sharks 26-10 Cheetahs
Sharks hold the wild card spot again thanks to 16 points from Garth April. Having started well, Cheetahs were unable to maintain it as the hosts outscored them by two tries to one.
Jaguares 8-34 Highlanders
Highlanders set up their win with three tries in the opening 32 minutes, with Elliot Dixon finishing with two. Lima Sopoaga did the damage with the boot, scoring 14 points in Buenos Aires.
THE KEY MOMENTS
Waratahs trailed by four points with the hour-mark approaching when Taqele Naiyaravoro was sent to the sin bin for tackling Barrett in the air. Hurricanes capitalised immediately, Julian Savea's try securing a cushion they would not sacrifice.
A handling error inside their own 22 summed up a miserable day for Sunwolves as their planned move went wrong, the ball gifted to Francois Brummer who duly touched down for Bulls.
Melbourne Rebels skipper Nic Stirzaker told Sky Sport: "It was pretty tough to stop the rot once it set in. Obviously a pretty disappointing performance to say the least, but you can't take anything away from the Crusaders. They were exceptional."
Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson told the Sydney Morning Herald: "We've got a more difficult task [of qualifying]. You saw how well the Blues played against the Brumbies and so to go to Eden Park and firstly win and get a bonus [point] will be a hugely difficult task."
Crusaders, Hurricanes, Stormers and Highlanders all qualified for the play-offs. Waratahs missed their chance to take over from Brumbies atop the Australian conference.
Bulls and Sharks are fighting for a wildcard, with the former facing Cheetahs and the latter doing battle with Sunwolves.