Racing 92 scored a pushover try with three minutes remaining to beat the Highlanders 45-38 in Hong Kong on Saturday.
The Super Rugby champions had drawn level at 38-38 when debutant fullback Matt Faddes sent eighthman Liam Squire through to score, only for the French club to snatch the win when replacement loose forward Chris Masoe was driven over the tryline.
Racing finished with seven tries, including two from South Africans Francois van der Merwe and Johan Goosen, and the Highlanders six.
It was the Otago-based franchise that drew first blood in the 10th minute when they were awarded a penalty try from a 5m scrum.
Racing hit back with two tries, including one from van der Merwe which saw the two locks combine with some clever handling to send the big man crashing over. Highanders flyhalf Lima Sopoaga’s chip kick was collected by Faddes, who scored his first of two tries before the break, to give the New Zealanders a 21-12 lead at half-time.
Centre Richard Buckman scored for the Highlanders from the second half kick-off, before Racing ran in three more tries to make it 31-26.
Another try for Racing – a brilliant, individual 65m chip-and-chase effort from Johan Goosen – and two for the Highlanders levelled matters, but the French club finished with a flourish to snatch victory.
Highlanders – Tries: Penalty try, Matt Faddes (2), Richard Buckman, Liam Squire, Tei Walden. Conversions: Lima Sopoaga (3), Marty Banks.
Racing 92 – Tries: Xavier Chauveau (2), Francois van der Merwe, Marc Andreu, Luc Ducalcon, Johan Goosen, Chris Masoe. Conversions: Dan Carter, Benjamin Dambielle (4).
Highlanders – 15 Matt Faddes, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Richard Buckman, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Josh Renton, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Shane Christie (c), 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Tom Franklin, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Subs: Greg Pleasants-Tate, Brendon Edmonds, Siosiua Halanukonuka, Jackson Hemopo, Sio Tomkinson, Liam Howley, Malakai Fekitoa, Tei Walden, Ryan Tongia, Marty Banks, Luke Whitelock, James Lentjes, Mark Reddish.
Racing 92 – 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Louis Dupichot, 13 Etienne Dussartre, 12 Dan Carter, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Remi Tales, 9 Xavier Chauveau, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Luc Barba, 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Francois van der Merwe (c), 4 Thibault Dubarry, 3 Cedabe Gomes Sa, 2 Virgile Lacombe, 1 Julien Brugnaut.
Subs: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Davit Khinchagishvili, 18 Juandré Kruger, 19 Chris Masoe, 20 Mike Phillips, 21 Benjamin Dambielle, 22 Joe Rokocoko, 23 Ben Tameifuna, 24 Luc Ducalcon, 25 Manuel Carizza, 26 Maxime Javaux, 27 Juan Imhoff, 28 Johan Goosen.
Photo: Man Yuen Li/Getty Images