Super Rugby week 11 recap: Highlanders pull off improbable late salvo in Bloemfontein as Kiwis all win again

On a week where a staggering 562 points were scored in eight matches, the results continued to go with the form guide in Super Rugby

The Australian franchises are having their worst season ever, with the Brumbies, who were on a bye in round 11, maintaining top spot in the conference despite having won only three of their nine fixtures to date, all three of which have come against fellow Australian outfits.

Over in New Zealand, the battle for top spot continues to heat up, and after all five of their franchises won once again it will set up some fantastic derbies to end the season. 

Highlanders score 21 points in final four minutes to claim astonishing win over Cheetahs

On Friday evening at Toyota Stadium, the Highlanders looked down and out before three tries in the final four minutes led them to a 45-41 victory over the Cheetahs

In a game played at breakneck speed from the get-go, it was the Cheetahs who enjoyed the best of the opening half and led 15-10 thanks to tries from Tian Meyer and Sergeal Petersen, with Marty Banks scoring all of the visitors points before Matt Faddes and Siate Tokolahi were each sent to the bin. 

Sergeal Petersen in action for the Cheetahs (image source: Gallo Images via Getty Images)

The Cheetahs capitalised on playing against 13 men by stretching their lead further thanks to a try from hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld before the Highlanders hit the front for the first try following a quickfire double from Waisake Naholo and Rob Thompson

Falling behind for the first time seemed to kick start the home side into life, and they enjoyed a seven minute spell of attacking brilliance which saw them add 19 points. Oupa Mohoje finished off a terrific passing move to see the lead change hands once more, with Meyer adding his second from the next attack, before the try of the game which was finished off by prop forward Ox Nche. Nche linked up with the brilliant Petersen who broke a number of tackles before popping it back to the prop who crashed over. 

Holding a 17-point lead with six minutes left on the clock, it was seemingly impossible for the Cheetahs to lose, but they handed their visitors the initiative somewhat after Uzair Cassiem was shown a yellow card. 

The Highlanders began to attack from anywhere on the field, and after a sustained attack on the line, the ball was finally shipped wide to replacement winger Tevita Li who tip-toed over in the corner. They remained ten points behind, yet from the resulting kickoff, a break from Fletcher Smith led to Faddes crossing for a try with one minute left to leave the unthinkable still a possibility. 

The Kiwis were forced to attack from 80 metres out for the win, but that was precisely what they did, and after a number of phases without losing possession, the ball came to Naholo who would not be stopped from close range and the incredible comeback was complete to leave the Cheetahs stunned. 

The Cheetahs are left devastated at full-time (image source: Gallo Images via Getty Images)

Crusaders and Hurricanes set up mouthwatering clash with big wins

The two teams playing the best rugby in the competition over the past month have been two of New Zealand's top franchises and they continued to light it up in week 11. 

On Friday evening, the Barrett brothers shone once against as the Hurricanes outscored the Stormers seven tries to one in a 41-22 triumph at the Westpac Stadium

Jordie Barrett scored 16 points, including a pair of first-half tries, with wingers Cory Jane and Julian Savea also crossing before the break as the Canes' picked up their eighth win of the campaign. 

Jordie Barrett dives over for his second try (image source: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The Stormers were very much second-best in an attacking sense, but were level at the hour mark thanks to a pushover try from Ramone Samuels and four long-range penalty goals from SP Marais

The home side finished strongly though, and a late brace from Ngani Laumape plus a try after the hooter from the mercurial Beauden Barrett led them to the five-point victory. 

Over in Pretoria, the Crusaders notched ten tries in their 62-24 destruction of the Bulls to extend their winning run in 2017 to ten matches. 

Despite being without the experienced duo of Kieran Read and Sam Whitelock, the Crusaders didn't miss a beat and remain the team to beat ahead of their week 12 clash with the Barrett brothers and co.

Jack Goodhue breaks for the Crusaders (image source: Gallo Images via Getty Images)

Five of the Crusaders starting backline crossed for tries, including man of the match Jack Goodhue and fly-half Richie Mo'unga who accumulated 15 points in the one-sided affair. Scott Barrett and Peter Samu also claimed five-pointers, as did replacements Andrew Makalio and Mitch Hunt as the Crusaders ended their South African tour with maximum points. 

Australian woes continue as they go winless once more

With the aforementioned conference leading Brumbies on a bye, there was an opportunity for the chasing pack in the Australian conference to make up some ground, but they all failed to do so, losing four from four in week 11.

The lowly Rebels were first to fall on Saturday, as they relinquished seven tries in a 47-10 defeat at the hands of the Lions

Courtnall Skosan runs clear for the Lions (image source: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

The Melbourne side started the game relatively well, and after Tom English had responded to early scores from Kwagga Smith and Ross Cronje they were only seven points down. 

However, on the cusp of half-time, Courtnall Skosan broke free to extend the Lions lead, and after the break, some awful defence allowed Sylvian Mahuza, Warren Whiteley and Anthony Volmink to follow him over for further tries in a one-sided second stanza at AAMI Park

In New Plymouth, Charlie Ngatai's long-awaited return ended in victory for the Chiefs as they defeated the Reds 46-17 with the inside centre bagging a try during his 2017 debut.

The Reds started strongly, and tries from Stephen Moore and Eto Nabuli handed them an early lead, but a yellow card to George Smith stalled their progress, and a try from Kane Hames, plus eight points from the boot of Damian McKenzie put the home side ahead. 

The home crowd then got the moment they were waiting for, with Ngatai sliding over the line for a try just after the half-hour mark almost a year to the day since he last played Super Rugby because of concussion. 

Charlie Ngatai back in action for the Chiefs (image source: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Ngatai's try gave the Chiefs the impetus they needed, and after Dominic Bird crashed over in the opening minute of the second half, two tries in the space of seven minutes from the Beaver, Stephen Donald, pushed them out into an unassailable lead. Campbell Magnay reduced the arrears with a well-taken score, but it was the Chiefs who had the last laugh with James Lowe breaking a number of tackles on his way to the line. 

In Sydney, three late tries wrestled back some respectability for the Waratahs, who went down to a 40-33 defeat at home to the Blues

The first-half was a travesty for the Tahs', who conceded all six of the penalties awarded by Angus Gardner to trail 26-0 at the break. Piers Francis knocked four of those penalties in-between the uprights to claim 12 points, with Rieko Ioane and Scott Scrafton crossing for converted tries. 

The home side couldn't possibly play worse after the break, and tries from Israel Folau and Tolu Latu got them back into the game, before a pair of stunning breakaway scores in the space of four minutes from Rieko, and then Akira Ioane put the result beyond doubt. 

Akira Ioane races clear for the Blues in Sydney (image source: Matt King/Getty Images)

Involved in a struggling conference, losing bonus points may yet prove crucial in the race to become the Australian playoff representative, and late tries from Bernard Foley, Folau and Paddy Ryan saw the Waratahs pick up a point which seemed unlikely at the Allianz Stadium.

The Force completed the full house of Australian week 11 defeats, after they lost 37-12 to the Sharks in Durban

The youthful Sharks backline was too hot to handle, with Jeremy Ward, Curwin Bosch and Lukhanyo Am all claiming tries to follow up Jean-Luc du Preez's score just before half-time but they fell short of a bonus point due to James Verity-Amm and Marcel Brache crossing for the visitors. 

Jaguares leave it late before downing Sunwolves

The Jaguares were forced to score three late tries to defeat the Sunwolves in Buenos Aires, with the Argentinians eventually beating their Japanese opponents 46-39. 

Two breakaway tries from Yu Tamura, plus scores from Will Tupou, Shota Emi and Sam Wykes had put the Sunwolves in position to defeat the Jaguares for the second time in two seasons, as they built a 39-27 lead. 

Still in with a shout of reaching the playoffs, it was a crucial game for the Jaguares to prevail in, and they just about managed to complete the job, with tries in the final 14 minutes from Matias Alemanno, Agustin Creevy and Matias Moroni completing the turnaround. 

Skipper Agustin Creevy scored twice for the Jaguares (image source: Gabriel Rossi)