The Cheetahs continued their late-season revival with an impressive 29-14 bonus-point win over the Western Force in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The win saw the Cheetahs jump a couple of places on the standings – going past the Highlanders and the Force – to 11th and ensuring they have managed to salvage some pride with their first back-to-back victories since 2006, also the Cheetahs’ first-ever win over the Force.
It was a game of two halves, the Cheetahs scoring four great first-half tries and the Force scoring two touchdowns after the break in a second half that was as disappointing as the first was exciting.
The Cheetahs produced some good continuity early on, as the Force played at half-pace. In the first quarter the Force hardly saw any ball and were reduced to a defensive unit.
Also to be applauded in the Cheetahs’ first-half performance was their solid defence, which did not allow the Force’s one-off runners too much room.
Another aspect of the game the Force found very difficult to deal with was Hennie Daniller’s long-range touchfinders, which often drove the Force back into their own half.
And from there they just didn’t have the strike force to break the Cheetahs’ defensive line.
The Cheetahs needed less than a minute to open their account – scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius pouncing on a Force mistake, as David Hill dropped a pass, and Pretorius put his halfback partner, flyhalf Naas Olivier away for a try. Olivier added the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
And Pretorius was the man who scored the next try, when he caught Justin Turner behind a scrum five metres from the Force line, jarred the ball loose, picked up and scored. Olivier’s conversion made it 14-0.
The Force eventually got on the board in the 21st minute, the first period in which they managed to maintain possession for any length of time, and Ryan Cross burst over from close range after a series of rushes. James O’Connor added the conversion without much trouble.
The next score was sublime, both in terms of its simplicity and execution – when Bjorn Basson plucked a high bomb from Naas Olivier out of the air, just in front of Nick Cummins, and sprinted clear for a brilliant try. Olivier slotted the conversion to make it 21-7 after 26 minutes.
And the next score was just as simple – the Force turning over the ball inside the Cheetahs 22, Hennie Daniller hoofing it downfield and Basson chasing hard. Hooker Nathan Charles did well to get back, but Basson forced the No.2 to spill the ball, picked it up and jogged over for his second try.
The conversion was wide, but the Cheetahs had already collected a bonus point and took a commanding 26-7 lead into the half-time break.
Again the Cheetahs wasted no time to get their game going, Naas Olivier slotting a penalty from right in front three minutes into the second half.
But the second half failed to reproduce the excitement of the first 40 minutes.
Try as they might, the Force found no way out of their own half. The Cheetahs, despite dominating territory and getting more than enough quality possession, found the Force defence a much tougher nut to crack.
The Cheetahs wasted a golden try-scoring chance in the 63rd minute, when Danwel Demas had sprinted clear for what looked to be a certain try – only for them to be called back for an off-the-ball incident.
It gave the Force a rare chance inside the Cheetahs 22, but as had been the case most of the game, they turned the ball over and the Cheetahs cleared their lines.
A score eventually came in the 74th minute, flank Matt Hodgson barging his way over after a quick tap from five metres out. O’Connor added the conversion and at 14-29 there was still another three scores in the game.
Riaan Viljoen had two shots at goal, both going very wide, as the Cheetahs played out the clock and claimed the win that took them past the Force and Highlanders on the standings.
Man of the match: You can look at fullback Hennie Daniller, who was a master with those long touchfinders and a rock in the last line, while wing Bjorn Basson earned himself a few plaudits for all his hard chasing and two great tries. However, our award goes to Cheetahs scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius - the spark of almost every Cheetahs move and a livewire on defence as well.
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Olivier, Pretorius, Basson 2
Cons: Olivier 3
For the Western Force:
Tries: Cross, Hodgson
Cons: O’Connor 2
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Corné Uys, 10 Naas Olivier, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Juan Smith (captain), 6 Hendro Scholtz, 5 Barend Pieterse, 4 Izak van der Westhuizen, 3 WP Nel, 2 Skipper Badenhorst, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Davon Raubenheimer, 20 Marnus Hugo, 21 Danwel Demas, 22 Riaan Viljoen.
Western Force: 15 James O’Connor, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Ryan Cross, 11 Cameron Shepherd, 10 David Hill, 9 Justin Turner, 8 Richard Brown, 7 David Pocock, 6 Matt Hodgson, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Tom Hockings, 3 Tim Fairbrother, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Nick Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Ben Whittaker, 17 Matt Dunning, 18 Sam Wykes, 19 Ben McCalman, 20 Chris O’Young, 21 Sam Harris, 22 Mark Bartholomeusz.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Joey Salmans (South Africa), Marc van Zyl (South Africa)
TMO: JC Fortuin (South Africa)
Article courtesy of Rugby 365Tweet