BLOEMFONTEIN – The Cheetahs scored a well-deserved 31-25 bonus point-victory over Benetton in a Pro 14 rugby match at Toyota Stadium on Saturday.
This was only the second victory for the Free State team this season after nine matches.
The Cheetahs dominated the scrums and lineouts but made too many errors in the first half.
Benetton made their intentions clear from the start, putting the Cheetahs under immense pressure. Rightwing Marco Zanon opened the scoring for the visitors with a try in the 3rd minute (5-0). Ian McKinley missed the conversion.
The Cheetahs hit back almost immediately when centre Nico Lee crashed through for a try (5-5). Flyhalf Tian Schoeman converted to put the home side in the lead for the first time (7-5).
Benetton piled on the pressure and McKinley got his team back in the lead with a penalty (8-7).
Junior Pokomela had a good chance to get the Cheetahs back in front but dropped the ball as he was about to cross the try line. The Cheetahs, with Ox Nche playing a leading role, worked their way back into the match with lots of pressure.
The former Stormers’ scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage then ran through for Benetton’s second try, which was converted by McKinley (15-7).
Just before halftime centre, Benhard Janse van Rensburg crossed the Benetton tryline, but the final pass from fullback Malcolm Jaer was forward.
The Cheetahs hit back early in the second half when scrumhalf and captain Shaun Venter rounded off a brilliant move. Schoeman converted to bring the home side within 1 point of Benetton (15-14), but a penalty by McKinley increased the visitor’s lead (18-14).
The Cheetahs were not to be outdone and lock Gerhard Olivier barged over and Schoeman converted (21-18).
McKinley then scored and converted to put his side back in the lead (25-21).
Eighthman Daniels Maartens got his name on the scoresheet when he rounded off a maul for the Cheetahs. Louis Fouche converted and put over a penalty to make sure his team ran out victors by 31-25.
Scorers: Cheetahs 31 (7): Tries: Nico Lee, Shaun Venter, Gerhard Olivier, Daniel Maartens. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (3), Louis Fouche. Penalty: Fouche.
Benetton (25 (15): Tries: Marco Zanon, Dewaldt Duvenage, Ian McKinley. Conversions: Ian McKinley (2). Penalty: McKinley (2).
African News Agency (ANA)