Cheetahs hold their nerve to beat Force
The Toyota Cheetahs produced another nail-biting performance, but this time were on the right side of the scoreline as they beat the Western Force 17-13 in an ill-tempered match in Bloemfontein on Saturday night.
At least there wasn’t a repeat of their “suicide” performance – as coach Naka Drotske described their loss against the Highlanders – but for a large part of this game it seemed that they could easily lose the match against an equally frustrated and ill-disciplined Force side.
Both sides will need to go back to the drawing board after this and look at their discipline, although it must be said that referee Stuart Berry should have been a lot more forceful with players than allowing the constant backchat that flowed throughout the game.
Players felt they could question every decision, resulting in several overemphasised cries of anguish almost every time a penalty was given.
Berry can be forgiven as he is new at this level and technically didn’t put too many feet wrong, but it allowed the game to degenerate into a melee of mistakes, as both sides' discipline and execution of their gameplans was poor, allowing for a free-flow of mistakes.
There should also be a word for Sias Ebersohn, who rose above last week’s disappointment to post a great comeback at flyhalf. While nowhere near flawless, he showed that he does have the confidence to rise above disappointment and was often the catalyst in the Cheetahs' attacks.
However, the Cheetahs seemed intent to try and force the game on the ground, often not taking the obvious pass before going to the floor, and found themselves wanting when that master poacher David Pocock was in exceptional form all night.
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That said, the Force hardly helped themselves out with their discipline and both David Harvey and Peck Cowan would probably have seen a yellow card if the match had beencontrolled by a referee with a little less patience.
Their indiscipline cost them just before halftime when Napolioni Nalaga went over in the corner, only to be called back when assistant referee Stefan Breytenbach disallowed the try because Pek Cowan had slapped a player in a preceding ruck.
At 9-6 ahead, the Cheetahs had edged in front thanks to the boot of Ebersohn and Tewis de Bruyn, but they were soon to lose that lead in the second half as a mistake in their own area gifted it to the visitors.
Hennie Daniller took a bit long with a clearance kick, only to have Winston Stanley storm down his kick and collect for the Force’s only try.
The Cheetahs pressed hard afterwards as the game degenerated, but finally found some space and watched as their captain Adriaan Strauss went over in the corner to put them ahead by a point.
Ebersohn then drilled home a 50-metre kick to give them some breathing space, but the Force simply kept on coming at them.
Eventually a telling turnover on their line two minutes from time ensured the Cheetahs would take the match, although there must have been more than a few heartbeats missed in the final moments as the Cheetahs threatened to lose it in the end.
Cheetahs –Try: Adriaan Strauss. Penalties: Sias Ebersohn (3), Tewis de Bruyn.
Force – Try: Winston Stanley. Conversion: David Harvey. Penalties: Harvey(2).