Penalty try seals Cheetahs W.Province victory

The Free State Cheetahs rounded off a magnificent second-half fightback to run-out close-shave 33-31victors over Western Province in the Currie Cup Premier Division match in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon.

Just when it seemed the Cape Town visitors would sneak in with a 31-26 win, the Cheetahs were awarded a penalty try in the final minute of the match to level scores at 31-all.

However, Cheetahs flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter added the conversion to secure a thrilling 33-31 victory in a match which was a brilliant advertisement for South African rugby.

Both sides showed enterprise after the kick-off by varying their attacks with field kicks and running rugby in the opening 15 minutes. This early promising feature suggested that an entertaining clash was in prospect and indeed that’s how play panned out as the first half wore on and five tries were recorded.

Potgieter punished Province’s early discretions by slotting two penalties in the first 10 minutes but the visitors shook off that setback with a magical two-try burst in the space of three minutes.

Province outside centre Frikkie Welsh caught the Cheetahs defence napping in the 12th minute and wormed his way past two opponents for his side’s opening try. Three minutes later Province rightwing Tonderai Chavhanga emulated Welsh’s penetrative run from 25 metres out and he left several Cheetahs players floundering in his slipstream to bag the visitors’ second try.

Fullback Joe Pietersen converted both tries to give Province a commanding 14-6 lead. Another Potgieter penalty three minutes later was the cue for Province to hit back with a wave of of attacks, one of which was sprung down the touchline in front of the grandstand with desired effect when Welsh rounded off a thrilling team effort with the side’s third converted try (21-9).

The Cheetahs kept plugging away and opted to keep ball in hand rather than kick for field position and their honest endeavour bore fruit in the form of an unconverted try in the 29th minute by flank Johan Wessels (21-14).

In the play leading up to half-time Province’s running game thrived and their delightful hand-to-hand upfield raids looked threatening as the Cheetahs’ defence battled to keep their lines intact.

However, Province made yet another breakthrough a minute before the break with an unconverted try by substitute JJ Engelbrecht who sprinted some 50m after the Cheetahs conceded their seventh turn-over of the half (26-14).

The try also secured Province a bonus point. The Cheetahs needed only three minutes after the break to signal their winning ambitions when they reduced the deficit with an unconverted try by Meyer Bosman to crown a promising second-half start (26-21).

This advance seemed to lift the Cheetahs’ game somewhat and they were able to up the ante at the breakdowns and set-pieces to pin Province down in their own half in ensuing play.

Just when it seemed that Province were going to absorb the pressure, their tackling let them down and the Cheetahs Springbok Sevens wing, Lionel Mapoe, ran through two tackles to score an unconverted try, which allowed his side to level the scores in the 53rd minute (26-26).

Province responded with a spirited fightback and twice, in the space of three minutes, they were stopped just short of the Cheetahs tryline as they were unable to work their way through the stubborn home side’s defence.

But Province persevered with their driving play, interspersed with sparkling hand-to-hand movements, and were rewarded with a deserving unconverted try by ever-improving centre Juan de Jongh in the 66th minute (31-26).

There was no let up from either side in the closing 10 minutes, during which the Cheetahs made a desperate effort to save the match by running hard at the province defence, even opting to kick to touch two goalable p

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