All Blacks flanker Elliot Dixon scored two tries to ensure the Highlanders qualified for Super Rugby’s playoffs with a 34-8 victory over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires.
The reigning champion Highlanders moved to 48 points on the table with the win on Saturday (Sunday AEST), giving New Zealand sides four of the five places available to the Australasian group in the quarter-finals.
The last matches of the regular season are played next week.
The Otago-based Highlanders were boosted by the arrival of five All Blacks after they missed last week’s trip to South Africa and they immediately sparked the side with fullback Ben Smith crossing in the second minute.
Highlanders inside centre Rob Thompson also showcased the team’s strength on the counter-attack when he finished off after the hosts had turned the ball over in midfield.
The visitors were then forced to defend for much of the next 15 minutes and held out wave after wave of Jaguares’ attack and earning the ire of referee Angus Gardner.
The counter-punching Highlanders stole back possession and swept down field with a number of forwards passing out of tackles to a support player with Dixon finishing off.
The Jaguares, essentially an Argentine national side, had Juan Martin Hernandez score after a superb counter-attack created a massive overlap to let the inside centre stroll over.
Highlanders flyhalf Lima Sopoaga, who had converted all three tries, added a penalty to give his side a 24-8 lead at halftime, which he extended to 27-8 with his second penalty just after the break.
Dixon’s second try in the 64th minute sealed the game.