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Highlanders stun Cheetahs with epic comeback

By Peter Hanson
Marty Banks

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Highlanders scored three tries in the final five minutes to secure a remarkable 45-41 comeback victory against a stunned Cheetahs in Super Rugby on Friday.


The New Zealanders were trailing 41-24 in the closing stages in Bloemfontein, but after Uzair Cassiem went into the sin-bin for Cheetahs, tries from Tevita Li, Matt Feddes and Waisake Naholo completed the epic turnaround.

It was a sixth straight win for Highlanders, marking their best run since 2005.

Things did start well for the hosts, though, as Tian Meyer collected Sergeal Petersen’s excellent inside pass from the right wing to race clear and score.

Highlanders soon hit back after good work at the breakdown led to Marty Banks hitting a gap from close range to touch down.

Feddes’ yellow card for a late hit six minutes before the break proved costly, though, as Petersen and Torsten van Jaarsveld crossed the whitewash either side of half-time during his absence.

Highlanders hit back and led through quickfire scores from Rob Thompson and Naholo.

But Cheetahs were rewarded for their fine play as first Oupa Mohoje scored, before Meyer showed great hands to scoop up Raymond Rhule’s chip one-handed to bag a second try.


Prop Ox Nche finished off a fine team move on the left to further extend Cheetahs’ lead and seemingly leave Highlanders out of contention.

Cassiem’s yellow set up a scarcely believable finish, though, as Li scored after relentless pressure, before Feddes raced free almost immediately from the kick-off.

Cheetahs defended resolutely as the clock wound down, but with the final play the ball was recycled to powerhouse Naholo, who bundled over the line to spark jubilant scenes from the visitors.

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