Highlanders beat Cheetahs in close clash

William Small-Smith during the Super Rugby match between Toyota Cheetahs and Highlanders.
Picture: Gallo Images

A try after the hooter by wing Waisake Naholo sealed a comeback for the Otago Highlanders as they defeated the Cheetahs 45-41 in their Super Rugby clash at the Free State Stadium yesterday.

The visitors trailed by 17 points going into the final five minutes, but scored three tries in a frenetic finish to claim a sixth Super Rugby victory in a row for the first time since 2005 – and ensure a seventh straight loss for the limping Cheetahs.

It was a second try in the game for Naholo, with the visitors also crossing the line via flyhalf Marty Banks, centre Rob Thompson, wing Tevita Li and fullback Matt Feddes.

The Cheetahs looked to have secured the points with six tries of their own from scrumhalf Tian Meyer (two), wing Sergeal Petersen, hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld, flank Teboho Mohoje and prop Ox Nche.

The home side grabbed the lead inside seven minutes through Meyer, before Banks spotted a gap in the Cheetahs’ defensive wall to cross for a converted try.

Petersen completed a simple backline move from the hosts after a lineout to give them a 15-10 lead after a scrappy first half.

With the Highlanders down to 13 players after yellow cards either side of the break, the Cheetahs extended their lead early in the second period as van Jaarsveld powered over from a driving maul.

But the Highlanders hit back when Petersen was robbed of possession on the ground from a counter-ruck and Thompson crossed the line.

The Cheetahs looked to have taken control with three scores in 10 minutes as Mahoje crossed the line, Meyer grabbed his second and Nche added a third for a 41-24 lead on the hour.

There were no further points until the final five minutes when the Highlanders stepped up a gear and the Cheetahs wilted.

Naholo found a winning try as the Highlanders exploited huge holes in the panicking Cheetahs defence. – Reuters

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