Cheetahs stun WP at Newlands
The Free State Cheetahs condemned Western Province to their second successive Currie Cup defeat with a superb 29-24 (halftime 12-3) win in a pulsating game at Newlands on Friday night.
After losing 27-16 to the Sharks last week, WP started the second round of clashes with another defeat after winning their first six matches of the campaign. But they held on to second place in the standings thanks to the Pumas’ sensational victory over the Blue Bulls earlier in the day.
Victory lifted the Cheetahs into the top four after Griquas slumped to a 48-30 loss against the Sharks, who chalked up their seventh successive win.
Second-half tries from flank Kabamba Floors and wing Jongi Nokwe -- a try of the year candidate -- sealed the triumph with flyhalf Louis Strydom adding 19 points through two conversions and five penalties.
WP scored three second-half tries through lock Adriaan Fondse, wing Gio Aplon and No 8 Duane Vermeulen while flyhalf Willem de Waal converted each try and added a lone first-half penalty.
DEFENCE THE KEY
But the Cheetahs’ defence was the key to their victory as they frustrated the home team in the first half and reaped the rewards in a pulsating second period.
At times the home team took the ball through eight or nine phases but lost field position as they retreated metre by metre in the face of the Cheetahs determined tackling.
And that served to buoy the visitors who grew in confidence, so much so that Strydom, not noted for a carefree, running game, was attacking the WP defence from inside his own 22-metre area.
Every time WP ground their way towards the red zone in the Cheetahs half, it seemed to end in desperate scrambling defence back in their own 22-metre zone.
Strydom slotted four first-half penalties to keep the scoreboard ticking over, but the match exploded after the break.
For the opening 10 minutes of the second half the Cheetahs hardly touched the ball as WP delivered an even sterner test of the visitors defensive resolve.
Fondse eventually crashed over for the first try of the match after WP had taken the ball through 12 phases and the Cheetahs simply couldn’t plug all the holes.
But two tries in the space of three minutes between the 56th and 59th minutes from Floors and Nokwe put the visitors side into a 29-10 lead, which was too much for WP to close in the final quarter.
Nokwe’s score, which started when WP centre Frikkie Welsh dropped a pass on the Cheetahs’ 22-metre line, went through six pairs of hands before the Bok flyer rounded off a sweeping move.
Aplon scored with 15 minutes to go and Vermeulen barged over with four minutes on the clock to narrow the deficit to four points and set up a thrilling finale. But it was too little, too late for WP.
Western Province – Tries: Adriaan Fondse, Gio Aplon, Duane Vermeulen. Conversions: Willem de Waal (3). Penalty: De Waal.
Free State Cheetahs – Tries: Kabamba Floors, Jongi Nokwe. Conversions: Louis Strydom (2). Penalties: Louis Strydom (5).