The defending Currie Cup champions, the Free State Cheetahs, proved to be too quick and powerful for the Falcons as they raced to a 55-14 win in their Round Six match in Bloemfontein on Friday.
Rugby 365 reports that the eight-try rout saw the Cheetahs move to the top of the standings, at least for 24 hours.
It was a victory built on all-round dominance, but most of all a win that came as a result of the Cheetahs shutting down the Falcons on defence.
As the Cheetahs’ stand-in captain, Barend Pieterse, said: “All credit to our defence. We knew they [the Falcons] would play from all facets and attack at every opportunity and we needed to shut them down.”
The Cheetahs pack was simply too powerful on the day and with the Cheetahs defence keeping the Falcons on the backfoot, the visitors had limited opportunities to put their famous attacking prowess on display.
The scrums were a mess – with numerous resets, penalties and free-kicks. Generally the Falcons were under pressure in the set pieces, but they owe referee Gareth Lloyd-Jones a big ‘thank you’ for getting many of his calls wrong and keeping the rampant Cheetahs in check.
For most part the Falcons were reduced to practicing their defence and then they wasted the little bit of ball they did get through over elaborative play.
The Cheetahs were in total command from the opening minute.
The early scoring came through a Chris Rossouw penalty in the second minute and an eighth-minute try by Heinrich Brüssow – the latter brilliant in the simplicity with which it was executed. From a line-out the Cheetahs simply marched forward 15 metres, with the Falcons unable to even slow down their momentum.
The Cheetahs’ next try was equally simplistic, from phase play it was quick hands that put wing Jongi Nokwe into space and with his express pace the Falcons’ cover defence failed to stop him. Bevin Fortuin, who took over the kicking duties after flyhalf Chris Rossouw left the field as the result of a head knock, added the conversion to make it 15-0 inside the first quarter.
The Falcons’ first real scoring opportunity came in the 23rd minute – a penalty shot at goal after one of many questionable refereeing decisions that went against the Cheetahs on the night. But Len Olivier failed and as the ball drifted wide you could hear the collective shout of ‘justice’ from the ranks of the Cheetah supporters.
Next to score was Cheetahs flank Kabamba Floors, playing in his 50th match for the Bloemfontein outfit – coming from a quick tap-’n-go by Neil Powell and some brilliant hands by Tewis de Bruyn, who had now moved to flyhalf. Floors’ pace made it impossible for the Falcons’ cover to catch him once he was in the clear. The conversion was wide, but at 20-0 the game was effectively over as a contest.
All that was left was for the Falcons to play for pride.
The bonus-point try came in the 35th minute, with Fortuin stepping into space from a turnover and putting teenage sensation Robert Ebersohn over. The conversion made it 27-0 and the half was not over yet.
However, the Cheetahs became over-excited and wasted the chances that came their way late in the half – leaving the score unchanged at the break.
The Falcons finally managed to put points on the board, Johan Jackson going over after some quick hands from turnover ball. Len Olivier added the conversion for a 27-7 scoreline.
Things went from bad to worse for the Cheetahs a minute later when star flank Heinrich Brüssow was yellow carded for using foul language in expressing his displeasure at some of the Falcons’ tactics.
The Cheetahs settled down very quickly and in the 51st minute Floors scored his second try of the game – another solid rolling maul by the Cheetahs forwards. Fortuin’s conversion made it 34-7 and confirmed the Cheetahs’ overall dominance.
And this happened while the Cheetahs were still down to 14 men – sending a very strong message that they won’t allow the match officials to influence the game, nomatter how hard they tried to nullify the Cheetahs’ strengths.
Ebersohn scored his second try – and the Cheetahs’ sixth – in the 67th minute after the Cheetahs pounded the Falcons’ line – despite the visitors now using every illegal tactic in the book to stop the rampaging Cheetahs. Tewis de Bruyn, who took over the goal-kicking from Fortuin (who was replaced by teenager Wilton Pietersen), added the conversion for a 41-7 lead.
The Falcons eventually scored a second try when Jackson stretched a long arm to put the ball down on the line.
But as was the case with the Falcons’ first try, the Cheetahs hit straight back and it was Pietersen who used his pace to outsprint the cover. And he added a second try to his tally minutes later as the Cheetahs went past the 50-point mark.
And that’s how it stayed, the dominant Cheetahs winning 55-14.
For the Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Brüssow, Nokwe, Floors 2, Ebersohn 2, Pietersen 2
Cons: Fortuin 3, De Bruyn 3
For the Falcons:
Tries: Jackson 2
Cons: Olivier, Perkins
Yellow card: Heinrich Brüssow (Cheetahs, 46 – foul language)
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Bevin Fortuin, 14 Eddie Fredericks, 13 JW Jonker, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Jongi Nokwe, 10 Chris Rossouw, 9 Tewis de Bruyn, 8 Schalk van der Merwe, 7 Kabamba Floors, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Barend Pieterse (captain), 4 David de Villiers, 3 Kobus Calldo, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Phillip Lemmer, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Duanne Vermeulen, 20 Neil Powell, 21 Wilton Pietersen, 22 Fabian Juries.
Falcons: 15 Riaan Smit, 14 Dewald Pretorius, 13 Johan Jackson, 12 Hanno Coetzee (captain), 11 Nicky Kritzinger, 10 Len Olivier, 9 Gerrie Odendaal, 8 Sean Plaatjies, 7 Warren Perkins, 6 Reg Muller, 5 Marius Coetzer, 4 Wouter Moore, 3 Nico Pretorius, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Gavin Whittingham.
Replacements: 16 Jody Jenneker, 17 Frik Venter, 18 Reggie Perkins, 19 Emile Verster, 20 Freddie van Zyl, 21 Rouan Cloete, 22 Jeff Perkins.
Referee: Gareth Lloyd-Jones
Touch judges: Theuns Jonker, Peter de Bruin
TMO: Willie Roos