Cheetahs claw back for nail-biting win
The Cheetahs held on for a nail-biting victory on Saturday, beating the Waratahs 35-34 in their Super Rugby encounter in the Free State stadium in Bloemfontein.
The Cheetahs’ defensive woes of last week against the Sharks continued as Waratahs flanker Dave Dennis dotted down as early as the fourth minute. The home side fumbled the ball on their own goal line and Dennis got a hand on it for the visitors’ first try.
Soon after, Dennis broke through the Cheetahs poor defence and big lock Sitaleki Timani scored his side’s second try in the space of two minutes.
The Bloemfontein-based side finally got some rhythm going and scrum half Piet van Zyl scored after the big number-8 Ashley Johnson made some hard yards.
In an almost exact replay of the opening minutes, the Cheetahs got their second try soon after with winger Willie le Roux’s sniping run cutting through the Waratahs defence to score under the posts for an easy conversion.
McKibbin slotted a penalty in the 22nd minute for the Waratahs to help settle down what has been a high paced first 20 minutes.
The Cheetahs however had other ideas, with hooker and captain Adriaan Strauss intercepting against the run of play and running nearly sixty metres to jot down in the corner.
The Waratahs never let up on the attack and centre Rob Horne scored in the last couple of minutes before half time, with McKibbin converting. The visitors got their bonus point try when Timani jogged over for his second after the Waratahs counter attacked from a poor clearing kick by scrum half Van Zyl.
The Cheetahs continued the try feast of the first half with a good try by prop WP Nel, who burst over for only his seventh Super Rugby try after the hosts put together some impressive phases of attack. Smit converted.
Cheetah’s winger Le Roux scored the best try of the game in the 56th minute with a brilliant individual effort. He gathered a chip kick from replacement fly half Sias Ebersohn, kicked again himself and gathered to score under the posts for his second five pointer of the day. Ebersohn handed the Cheetahs the lead with his conversion.
The Cheetahs went into defensive mode. With a lead of only one point the hosts needed another try to put the result beyond all doubt, but they defended their lead and in the end made a crucial turnover after centre Berrick Barnes readied himself to kick the winning drop goal.
Points scorers Cheetahs Tries: Piet van Zyl, Willie le Roux (2), Adriaan Strauss, WP Nel Conversions: Riaan Smit (4), Sias Ebersohn
Waratahs Tries: Dave Dennis, Sitaleki Timani (2), Rob Horne Conversions: Brendan McKibbin (4) Penalties: McKibbin (2)—Sapa.