Cheetahs win arm-wrestle in Bloem

The Toyota Free State Cheetahs earned a hard-fought 24-17 (halftime 0-3) Carling Currie Cup victory over DHL Western Province at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein on Wednesday evening.

The home side scored three tries through hooker Marnus van der Merwe, flank Gideon van der Merwe and replacement utility back, Reinhardt Fortuin with WP scoring two of their own through wing Angelo Davids and replacement flank Roelof Smit.

Scrumhalf and captain, Ruan Pienaar landed three conversions and a penalty while Province flyhalf, Kade Wolhueter landed two conversions and a monster penalty of his own.

The first half was a tough affair with Province showing early promise and looking the more enterprising side but their handling and protection of the ball let them down on numerous occasions. They did come close to scoring the opening try of the game when wing Segreal Petersen produced a perfect cross-kick towards Davids on the left wing but the young winger knocked the ball on trying to gather and score.

Province did get the chance to open the scoring when Free State were penalised at ruck time. Wolhuter, eight metres inside his own half, produced a monster kick that sailed over the crossbar to hand the visitors the lead after 17 minutes.

The visitors did not allow the home side’s maul to function and defended brilliantly every time the Cheetahs tried to maul for the line and the sides went into the break with Province leading by a slender three points and leaving Free State without a single shot at goal.

The second half started well for the visitors and Wolhuter had the chance to double the lead but pushed his penalty attempt well wide of the posts. But the home sides found some momentum and opened their account with the first try of the game.

A smart move from a lineout left the Province defence in confusion and hooker van der Merwe wheeled his way over the line. Pienaar converted from the left-hand touchline to give Free State a four-point lead.

The hosts then turned up the heat and five minutes later were on the scoresheet again and this time their maul was unstoppable as flanker Van der Merwe controlled well as the maul brushed aside Province’s attempted defence. Pienaar again converted to push the home side 11 points clear.

The visitors though did not give up and produced one of the tries of the season. Replacement Rikus Pretorius broke out from his own tryline with some neat side stepping, allowing Province to break out from their 22m area.

Pretorius offloaded to Davids, who had eyes on Rosko Specman ahead of him but Specman was flattened and Province managed to send the ball through a few hands before Davids finished off in the lefthand corner. Wolhuter converted from the tightest of angles to bring the visitors to within four points.

But then captain and flanker Nama Xaba was sin-binned with 10 minutes left on the clock for cynical play with the Cheetahs on the attack. Referee Morne Ferreira had no choice but to send the Province captain to the bin and Pienaar landed the simple penalty to push the hosts out by seven points.

With Xaba off the park, the Cheetahs scored their third try, this time with a nice break from Pienaar down the right, before the ball made its way to the middle of the pitch where Frans Steyn broke a few tackles and offloaded to Fortuin, who ran an excellent angle to score under the poles, giving Pienaar an easy conversion.

Both sides were looking to score one more try, with the Cheetahs chasing a bonus-point try and Province looking to bring themselves to within seven points for a losing bonus-point.

Province won a penalty and mauled from the lineout only for the Cheetahs to collapse the maul with time up on the clock. Flanker Marcel Theunissen  tapped and charged for the line and after a few attempts, Smit barged over to score.

Wolhuter landed the all-important conversion to hand Province a losing bonus-point but the victory leaves the Cheetahs top of the Currie Cup log and unbeaten after five games, while Province have now lost four of their five matches to date.

Author: Brendon

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