The Free State Cheetahs raced back to the top of the Currie Cup standings with a comfortable 38-28 win over the Lions in their Round Nine match in Johannesburg on Friday.
Rugby 365 reports that it was a 12-point blitz inside the last 10 minutes that took the game beyond the Lions – with two tries and a conversion taking the Cheetahs from a three-point (26-23) lead into a winning position at 38-23. A late consolation score by a tired-looking Lions team was simply not enough.
There would be quite a bit of sympathy for the young Lions. They brought so much to this lively and entertaining game. They were, as they usually are, inventive and creative, often producing the unexpected, enthusiastic. They actually won the possession count and had the better of the territory. They just did not finish and ended the match without even a losers’ bonus point. They deserved better.
The Cheetahs on the other hand deserved their win by snapping up the chances they had. Hendro Scholtz, JW Jonker and Neil Powell all got in with surprise tries for 19 points, half the Cheetahs’ points, and then Powell’s brought with it the pleasing harvest of a bonus point for four tries.
There were just 50 stoppages in the match, a really low count which says something of the quality of the rugby and the zestful intentions of the players.
The Cheetahs attacked first and looked on the way to scoring till Earl Rose knocked the ball from a charging Wiaan du Preez’s hands but the referee was playing advantage and went back to the penalty for offside by Franco van der Merwe. Chris Rossouw goaled. 3-0.
A penalty gave Rose the chance to kick a ling touch for an attacking line-out. From it the Lions attacked and Jaco Pretorius and Rose were close till Rose, on advantage kicked a drop. 3-3 after seven minutes.
There was a long, long hold-up before the drop was awarded while the television match official checked to see if Rayno Benjamin had been guilty of foul play but whatever Benjamin may or may not have done was off the screen, a safe place to misbehave.
After Rossouw had missed a penalty from just inside his half the Lions attacked and Benjamin was close but eventually Willem Alberts lost the ball in a tackle by Barend Pieterse after many Lions phases.
When Duane Vermeulen was penalised for being offside, Rose put the Lions ahead but the Cheetahs then broke the long period Lions’ attack and attacked themselves. Meyer Bosman was through and then Fabian Juries chased a long kick by Rossouw and was ahead in the race for the ball but the oval bounced perversely and Benjamin saved. Cobus Grobbelaar was penalised and Rossouw made the score 6-all after 25 minutes.
Four minutes later the Lions suffered a terrible blow. After the whistle, Jano Vermaak, who had been playing splendidly, picked up Tewis de Bruyn, toppled him over and went to ground with him. He was sent to the sin bin and during his sojourn there the Cheetahs scored 10 points – the eventual difference between the two teams. Not only that but Vermaak was not his ebullient self when he came back after the sin bin.
Rossouw kicked out the penalty, for the dangerous tackle, five metres from the Lions’ line. The Cheetahs charged at the line but the Lions kept them at bay till they went left and David de Villiers took a short pass from Rossouw to burst over near the posts. 13-3 after 33 minutes.
Benjamin, who had an extremely patchy game, was caught off guard at a long kick and conceded a five-metre line-out but Richardt Strauss threw over the top and the Lions got away till Lawrence Sephaka was penalised at a tackle/ruck and Rossouw made the half-time score 16-6.
Early in the second half Kabamba Floors was penalised and Rose goaled. 16-9, but two minutes later the Cheetahs put huge pressure on the Lions scrum. As it disintegrated Alberts tried a short pass to Vermaak which Scholtz intercepted and away he pounded 44 metres for a try near the posts. 23-9 after 46 minutes.
But bless the Lions they were not beaten. Tall Ross Geldenhuys came on to shore up the scrummaging and then he went on the charge going left. Quick ball produced an overlap for Benjamin who rounded and scored. Rose converted. 23-16 after 53 minutes.
Hero Geldenhuys conceded a penalty at a tackle and Rossouw made it 26-16.
At this time Ernst Joubert made a welcome return to the rugby field after along lay-off through injury.
Alberts came galloping down the right in counter. He chipped and gathered and passed inside. The Lions attacked. Rose nearly blew it, but they kept going left and then came back right and Rose was over far out. From far out he converted. 26-23 with 19 minutes left.
Sadly Alberts had to be helped off at this stage and Rossouw went as well, on the stretcher cart.
The Lions were showing great enterprise. Killian raced on the counter and they were on the attack till Benjamin killed it off with a chip. Vermaak tapped and ran and Joubert had a long and noble run. It seemed the Lions would score but instead the Cheetahs broke out down their left. JW Jonker handled and then he got the ball back again and ran unopposed to score. 31-23 with six minutes to play.
The Cheetahs were in the process of eating the clock up with ponderous, close-range picks-’n-go when suddenly Powell broke inside Ethienne Reynecke at a tackle/ruck and raced some 34 metres to score near the posts. 38-23 with three minutes left and a bonus point for the Cheetahs, enough to project them to the top of the Currie Cup log.
The brave Lions were not done. They won a turnover. Heinke van der Merwe gave to Reynecke who gave to Benjamin who ran some 60 metres down the left-hand touch line for a try far out.
Louis Strydom missed the conversion and the final whistle went.
For the Lions:
Tries: Benjamin 2, Rose
Cons: Rose 2
Pens: Rose 2
Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: De Villiers, Scholtz, Jonker, Powell
Cons: Rossouw 2, De Bruyn
Pens: Rossouw 4
Yellow card: Jano Vermaak (Lions, 30 – foul play, spear tackle)Tweet