Cheetahs smash Lions Currie Cup dream

The Cheetahs ended the Lions chances of reaching the Currie Cup Semi-finals with a 43-37 victory in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

 

Ten tries were scored in all with the Cheetahs scoring six of the ten – two by Ashley Johnson.

 

The Free State Cheetahs have now moved to third place on the Currie Cup log 

 

Despite the defeat, the Lions can still make the play-offs in two weeks’ time, but that will depend on some surprising and at least one shock result making it highly unlikely.

The Lions played some wonderful rugby with interlinking and good support, but ultimately a few handling errors and too many missed tackles at crucial times against a side that took their chances cost Franco van der Merwe’s team. They nevertheless took two bonus points from the match.


The Free State Cheetahs initially controlled matters, winning more of the breakdowns and on top in the territorial stakes.


But the Lions, when they got their hands on the ball, were dangerous with their interplay and only two great tackles in a single move by prop WP Nel denied them early on.


The Lions were 5-0 down after only 90 seconds following a good run and off-load by Meyer Bosman after a quick scrum free-kick taken by Ashley Johnson – but then Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies came into his own as he scored 17 points and set up two of his side’s four tries.


First he kicked two penalties before the Cheetahs flyhalf Louis Strydom pulled three points back. Then, running on the halfway line, Jantjies threw a pass that might have been marginally forward.

 

Michael Killian, with a small dummy pass off-loaded to his inside where Burton Francis collected to go over under the posts. He converted and then, after Strydom had kicked another penalty to make it 13-11 to the Lions, Jantjies showed his class again.

 

He grubbered to the right touchline, and there Lions No 8 Josh Strauss kept his balance a centimetre from touch to go over. Jantjies converted the angled kick, but three minutes later the Cheetahs did what every side dreams of by scoring on the halftime whistle.

 

Daniller, who had an excellent game, kicked over the defence, gathered and via lock Francois Uys the try was scored by the lively No 8 Johnson.

The 20-16 halftime lead of the Lions was wiped out within the first minute after the break when home captain Adriaan Strauss barged over from a ruck following good play from Bosman. With Strydom converting, the Free State were ahead again (23-20). The two scores within two minutes shook the Lions.


To rub it in, the Cheetahs produced another of those great individual tries that marked the match ten minutes later. Johnson ran an excellent line as Strydom off-loaded a subtle pass that might have been forward. But Johnson was right through.

 

When the cover defence came, the Springbok chipped ahead, got the bounce and scored. Strydom missed his third from four conversions, but the Cheetahs had their bonus point and were now 28-20 ahead after 17 points in 15 minutes.

Jantjies’ third penalty was followed by a great run from Free State’s Strauss and Nel’s steamroller try. This time Strydom was successful and his team went into a 12-point lead at 35-23, and it was further stretched when Bosman added one of his famous long range penalties (38-23 with 16 minutes to go).


It became an eight-point game when Lions replacement loose-forward Warren Whiteley ran well and fed replacement hooker Edgar Marutlulle for a try under the posts (38-30).

 

The game was on, but a good wrap-around with Philip Snyman scoring after more good work by Daniller made it 43-30 -and with only nine minutes remaining the Lions seemed out of the game and probably also the semi-finals.

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