Cheetahs give the Blues the Blues

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28 Feb 2015
Cheetahs give the Blues the Blues

The Cheetahs made it two victories from two in Super Rugby as they held on to beat the Blues 25-24 in a game they will feel fortunate to win.

A late penalty by fly-half Joe Pietersen sealed the deal for the home side, who watched in desperation as an attempted match winning drop-goal by Ihaia West sailed past the uprights in the final minute of the match.

The Blues will be very disappointed that they will leave South African shores without a victory and that frustration should be even more evident on the faces of their coaches because they were on top as far as territory and possession in the match was concerned.

The Cheetahs were somewhat under siege during the opening exchanges, but defended valiantly to keep the Blues at bay.

The home side were, however, the first to have a chance of troubling the scorers, but Pietersen pushed his attempt wide.

While the sides were feeling each other out, the respective kickers went the aerial route in an attempt to try and win the territorial battle and although the Blues looked to gain most from the aerial ping-pong, it was the Cheetahs who capitalised when Oupa Mohoje stole a line-out that would result in his team’s first try in the 19th minute.

The five-pointer was scored by Springbok wing Cornal Hendricks who cut back superbly when he received the ball out wide.

The Blues were never going to wait on them and hit back straight away through Luke Braid who dived over for his ninth Super Rugby try. The flanker scored his first of the season pealing off the back of a well constructed rolling maul in 23rd minute to level the scores.

The Cheetahs nearly followed the example of the visiting side by striking back directly after they conceded points.

With his side under pressure, Mohoje hacked through a loose ball close to his own try-line. The Cheetahs chased profusely but squandered what would have been a superb try against the run of play when wing Raymond Rhule failed to hang on to the ball.

Still, the breakaway provided much needed relief and it would put the Cheetahs on the front foot from where they could built some pressure.

Nifty handling following a cross-kick by Pietersen allowed Hendricks to score his second of the evening although this time Pietersen failed with the conversion.

Willie le Roux, who is starting to play to his potential, collected the ball in the air, passed to his outside before collecting the ball again and sending his the fast man over.

The huge defensive effort the Cheetahs had to produce was not made any easier by Blues captain Jerome Kaino who played in his 100th Super Rugby match.

Kaino's carries proved to be close to unstoppable on the night and through his penetrative runs the scramble defence of the home side was tested on more than one occasion.

Momentum gained from a great hand-off by Kaino put the Blues on the front foot and their second try of the evening was a direct result of his force in the close exchanges.

Prop Charlie Faumuina was credited with his team's second five-pointer and the big front-rower showed great skill to hold onto a low pass before he dived over.

With the conversion by West the Auckland outfit took the lead for the first time in the contest.

That lead could have been more than the 12-14 it was at the break, but West's moment of glory was over-ruled when replay footage showed one of the passes in the build-up to the try had drifted forward.

During the second stanza Patrick Tuipulotu joined Kaino in pilling the pressure on their hosts, but the visitors would squander two easy scoring opportunities in the half.

Making good use of the scraps they were given, the Cheetahs proved to be at their most dangerous on the counter attack and it was quite fitting that Sarel Pretorius, the busy body scrum-half, reclaimed the lead for his team when he beat four defenders on his way over the try-line. It was indeed a scintillating run by Pretorius and with the conversion his side had their noses in front 19-14.

The Blues again tried their best to strike back as quick as they could, but had only themselves to blame for not scoring as another handling error, metres away from the try-line, cost them.

Instead the Cheetahs were able to clear their lines.

The Blues then had a chance to pull three-points back but West pushed his attempt to the right of the uprights.

Capping off a splendid day on the field, Kaino scored his team's second try as nobody was wasn't going stop him from finishing after he received the ball a metre from the line. With the conversion the Blues were back in front with 15 minutes remaining in the match.

Pietersen reclaimed the lead for the Cheetahs with nine minutes left on the clock but West replied with a penalty of his own to make it 22-24 as the match drew to a close.

Superb work at scrum time, where the Cheetahs milked the penalties, prevented the Blues from converting territory into points and from an infringement at a maul, Pietersen gave his side the lead the would maintain until the final whistle.

The scorers:

For Cheetahs:
Tries: Hendricks 2, Pretorius
Con: Pietersen 2
Pen: Pietersen 2

For Blues:
Tries: Braid, Faumuina, Kaino
Con: West 3
Pen: West

Cheetahs: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Jean Cook, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Danie Minnie.
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 BG Uys, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Tienie Burger, 20 Boom Prinsloo, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Willie du Plessis, 23 Johann Sadie.

Blues: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Melani Nanai, 13 Charles Piutau, 12 Hamish Northcott, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Luke Braid, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Sam Prattley, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 Francis Saili.

Referee: Rohan Hoffman (Australia)
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)