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Rugby | Pro14

Ox Nche © Gallo Images

Lee hat-trick gives Cheetahs victory



Toyota Cheetahs midfielder Nico Lee scored a hat-trick as his team won the first of back-to-back Pro14 derbies against the Southern Kings 45-21 in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.

But the Cheetahs had to put up a real fight in the end to keep their bonus point and victory, as they finished the game with 13 men through some indiscipline, before powering back with two late tries to settle the score.

It was a game where the plucky Kings were never really in the fight. The Cheetahs looked a lot more composed and had more than the bulk of possession and territory, giving the scoreline a justifiable feel about it.

The Kings may be the other South African side in the competition, but for large parts of the game they looked tactically naïve, even though they possess a lot of raw talent in their ranks.

Still, their forwards were never a match for the Cheetahs, who revelled with the likes of Ox Nche, Reniel Hugo, Uzair Cassiem and Oupa Mohoje all looking classy around the field.

But it was in the backline – where they lost the likes of William Small-Smith and Francois Venter this week – that the difference really showed, not only in size, but in tactical nuance when it came to what they did with the ball.

Fred Zeilinga and Niel Marais played beautifully off each other, with the latter’s bulk adding some impetus in the midfield, while at halfback Shaun Venter was the real difference between the sides, with his kicking showing a clear dominance while his options were superb throughout.

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That set the platform for Lee’s exploits and the eventual full house of points for the visitors in this fixture.

The game set off at a furious pace, with the Cheetahs opening the scoring all too easily as the first ball sent wide allowed fullback Clayton Blommetjies to cut inside and beat the defence to go over the line unhindered.

The Kings hit back through Yaw Penxe, who showed a blistering turn of pace to sythe through the defence and score an excellent try to level the scores.

Zeilinga added a penalty before the Cheetahs took full control of the match, first through Lee’s first try, which was also a bit too simple as he simply darted between two players, neither of which was able to stop his surge from close quarters. Shaun Venter added another try after a dart from a ruck close to the line to give the Cheetahs control before the break and they held out from a late first-half surge to go into the break well up.

In the second half Lee added his second from a turnover ball and some quick thinking from Makazole Mapimpi, who snatched the turnover ball and gave the perfect pass to put the midfielder in at the corner against the run of play.

With the Kings gaining in confidence a salvo on the Cheetahs line saw Justin Basson carded for cynical play and it wasn’t a surprise that the Kings grabbed their second try to Eital Bredenkamp, with the help of the TMO.

As the game wound down, the Cheetahs were more on the back foot as the Kings assault intensified and Charles Marais was carded for stopping a maul by any means possible, but it didn’t help as they forced a penalty try from the next move.

The Cheetahs dropped to 13 with their third yellow of the match, this time when Junior Pokomela was ordered from the field and ensured a tense last 10 minutes for the visitors.

It only served to stiffen their resolve as they attacked while two men down, putting the result beyond doubt when Lee took his hat-trick by reaching over the line after some deft footwork. Jacques du Toit added a late try to make the scoreline look a lot more respectable and give the Cheetahs a good, hard-fought win over their South African rivals.

The teams will meet again next Saturday in Bloemfontein.

SCORERS

Southern Kings – tries: Yaw Penxe, Eital Bredenkamp, penalty try. Conversions: Oliver Zono (2)

Toyota Cheetahs – tries: Nico Lee (3), Shaun Venter, Clayton Blommetjies, Jacques du Toit. Conversions: Fred Zeilinga (6). Penalty: Zeilinga



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