Waratahs hold off Cheetahs

The Waratahs held off a determined challenge from South Africa’s Cheetahs to win their Super 14 rugby match 23-19 on Friday.

Leading 20-7 at half-time and seemingly headed for an easy win, the Waratahs wilted as the match wore on and were lucky to escape with the victory.

It was the Waratahs’ fourth win from six games this season and comes after a 34-7 drubbing they received at the hands of the Crusaders last Friday.

The result moved the Waratahs above the Brumbies into sixth place on the Super 14 ladder but the win would have done little to ease the pressure on coach Ewen McKenzie, who watched as his players almost blew a 13-point halftime lead.

The Waratahs made a promising start, spreading the ball wide and causing havoc in the Cheetahs’ defence.

They opened the scoring with a Kurtley Beale penalty in the 17th minute following a high tackle on prop Benn Robinson.

The Waratahs posted their first try in the 22nd minute when Lachlan Turner showed his speed down the left wing after Phil Waugh intercepted a pass from Cheetahs five-eighth Jacques-Louis Potgieter.

Beale’s conversion made it 10-0 but the Cheetahs struck back with a try in the corner to lock David de Villiers, which centre Meyer Bosman converted from the sideline.

Rocky Elsom restored the Waratahs’ 10-point lead with a powerful 20-metre burst to cross on the half-hour and Beale’s conversion and a second penalty in the 37th minute had the home team in control at the break.

But as the Waratahs reverted to safety-first football, the Cheetahs threatened a shock in the second half when winger Jongi Nokwe and replacement forward Flip van der Merwe scored in the 53rd and 70th minutes to set up a tense finale.

Beale posted the final points with a third penalty four minutes from time.

“We tried to go out there and play with intent — that’s what everyone’s been telling us we have to try to do, so we tried to do that,” McKenzie said.

“We came up with some errors. That’s going to happen, but we’ll be better for the run. We’ll be better in terms of our overall play down the track.”

Sapa-AFP – Super14.com   

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