Scrumhalf Petrus van Zyl scored an injury-time try to give the Central Cheetahs a dramatic first win of the Super 15 season in a 33-26 victory over the Melbourne Rebels on Sunday.
With the score tied at 26-26 and the clock ticking down, the Cheetahs recycled the ball through 16 phases, culminating in Van Zyl dashing over in the corner to clinch victory and leave the Rebels without a win in three outings.
The Rebels looked like escaping with a draw after trailing 10-20 at halftime but the Cheetahs went for broke, keeping the ball alive over 70m leading to Van Zyl’s game-winning try.
The Cheetahs had narrowly lost two of their previous three games before ending their barren spell on Sunday.
Winger Willie le Roux had an eventful match, scoring two of the Cheetahs’ three tries, including an interception off a wayward James O’Connor pass, before being yellow-carded for a deliberate knock down after the Rebels appeared certain to score in he 28th minute.
With the Rebels clawing their way back in the second half, Le Roux also gave away a crucial penalty which handed Melbourne the lead for the first time in the match just after the hour mark.
Flyhalf Johan Goosen took over as the tournament’s leading scorer with a match haul of 18 points with three conversions and four penalties from nine attempts.
Rebels’ new Wallaby recruit O’Connor starred for his side, compiling 21 points, including a second-half try, two conversions and four penalties.
O’Connor, starting at flyhalf for the Rebels for the first time with Englishman Danny Cipriani relegated to the substitutes’ bench, was in the thick of the action and scored an impressive try eight minutes after the interval.
It dented the Cheetahs comfortable early lead, secured after they jumped to a 20-7 advantage thanks to two tries from the explosive Le Roux.
The Cheetahs waned as the game wore on, going behind and relying on the sharpshooting Goosen to drag them back into contention with a penalty levelling at 26-26.
The Cheetahs had most of the ball for the final 10 minutes but desperate defending by the Rebels looked like it would be enough for a share of the points until Van Zyl’s intervention.
The Cheetahs now head to New Zealand where they will take on seven-time Super Rugby champions Canterbury Crusaders next weekend, while the Rebels host Western Force next Friday. – AFP