The iCollege Pumas secured a bonus-point 42-14 (halftime 28-7) victory over the Toyota Free State Cheetahs at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein on Friday to keep their slim chances of reaching the Currie Cup play-off’s alive.
The Pumas arrived in Bloemfontein needing to pick up a full house of points and they obliged their fans, running in six converted tries to the two from the home team, who have yet to taste victory in this seasons’ shortened format.
The men from Nelspruit returned to winning ways after losing three matches on the trot but only have one match left to play in the competition’s round-robin stage and will need to beat the Xerox Golden Lions in their final match in two weeks time, as well as having other results go their way, in order to make the semi-finals.
In greasy conditions, the Pumas showed some good ball-handling skills to secure their bonus point before halftime, running in their four tries through right wing Morne Joubert, outside centre Neil Maritz and a brace from his centre partner, Ryan Nell, all of which were converted by the young stellar flyhalf, Chris Smith.
Nell opened the scoring after 10 minutes, thanks to a deft touch of the boot by man of the match, Stefan Ungerer. The scrumhalf saw that no one was home behind the poles and dropped the ball onto the boot with Nell racing through to dot down. The Pumas extended their lead to 14 points after Ungerer produced another piece of brilliance.
The experienced scrumhalf broke away, looping around the backline and then floated a pass to Joubert, who went over in the righthand corner and despite the tight angle, Smith converted with ease. Nell was back in the thick of things on the half hour mark, receiving a pass from Smith and the popping Joubert into space down the right hand touchline.
Joubert drew in the defenders and then fed the ball back to Nell, who shook off the last defender to score his second of the night and hand the Pumas a healthy 21-point lead as Smith added the extra two points.
But the Cheetahs, who were boasting a young side, hit back through former Blue Bulls scrumhalf, Rudy Paige. The nuggety Cheetahs captain picked the ball up from a ruck on the Pumas line and then forced two Pumas forwards over the line to score the Cheetahs first try, which flyhalf Ernst Stapelberg converted to narrow the gap back to 14 points.
But the Cheetahs’ frailties on the left wing were exposed again as the Pumas moved the ball to the right where a pop-pass from Number 8, Jeandre Rudolph found Maritz and the centre raced down the line to score the bonus-point try.
The Cheetahs were found wanting in the scrums, lineouts and with their handling as some promising attacks in the second half were brought to an abrupt end with the ball being spilled out of hand.
But the home side fought on in the second stanza and were rewarded with their second try of the evening with a powerful run from flanker Jannes Snyman. Snyman picked up a loose ball and broke through two tackles before forcing his way over with two Pumas defenders trying to stop him.
But that was all the Free State scorers wrote home about as the Pumas hit right back from the kick-off, with the Pumas Number 6, Marnus Schoeman forcing his way over the line and then with six minutes remaining on the stadium clock, replacement hooker, Simon Westraadt, barged his way over after the Pumas had mauled from a lineout five meters out from the Cheetahs tryline.
The win moves the Pumas into fifth spot on the log with 12 points from five games, three behind DHL Western Province and the Cell C Sharks, who have both only played three matches.
*Published on Supersport.com