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Late-charging Highlanders beat Cheetahs

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 5/05/2017

The Highlanders have scored three tries in the last five minutes to complete a stunning comeback in a 45-41 win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

All Blacks winger Waisake Naholo crossed after the fulltime whistle, sparking scenes of jubilation from the visiting team.

They had looked buried when the Cheetahs ran in three quick tries from their own midway through the second spell to lead 41-24.

However, reserve winger Tevita Li, fullback Matt Faddes and Naholo - who bagged two tries - capitalised on a Cheetahs defence, reduced to 14 men following a yellow card shown to Uzair Cassiem.

The result handed the Highlanders (7-3) a sixth successive win, equalling the best streak in their history and cementing their fourth placing in the New Zealand conference.

It was a bright finish to a difficult evening in which defence and discipline both let them down.

There will also be concern over the fitness of their All Blacks loose forward Liam Squire, who departed in the 20th minute, not long after having his right hand heavily strapped.

It was a seventh successive defeat for the attack-minded Cheetahs, who matched the tourists' six tries but paid for their defensive frailties, particularly at the end.

The difference was the deadly goalkicking boot of Highlanders first five-eighth Marty Banks, who landed all seven shots at goal and scored their only first-half try in a 20-point haul.

Halfback Tian Meyer and winger Sergeal Petersen scored long-range tries to put the hosts 15-10 up at the break as ill-discipline crept into the Highlanders' game.

Faddes was shown a yellow card, somewhat unluckily, for what was deemed a no-arms tackle in the 34th minute.

The Highlanders were reduced to 13 men for a short period when reserve prop Siate Tokolahi's 42nd-minute lifting tackle also resulted in a stint in the sin bin.

The Cheetahs took advantage through a try to hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld.

Quick tries to second five-eighth Rob Thompson and Naholo put the Highlanders 24-22 ahead before the Cheetahs' rapid-fire response.

Flanker Oupa Mohoje, Meyer and prop Ox Nche all crossed, with the latter's long-range team effort the most spectacular of the 12 tries on offer.

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