CAPE TOWN – The visiting Welsh PRO14 outfit Cardiff Blues went down 29-27 to South Africa’s Cheetahs at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday evening.
Towards the end of the match, it looked like the Blues would overturn a 22-6 halftime deficit when they produced a passage of play which produced three converted tries to snatch a 27-22 lead.
However, in the end, they were undone by a penalty try, and with it, they surrendered their claim for a PRO14 playoff berth.
The Cheetahs laid a platform for a strong performance in the first half when they ran in three tries to take a commanding 22-6 lead.
Left wing Sibahle Maxwane ran in two tries and outside centre Francois Venter ran in the third.
Flyhalf Niel Marais was on target with two conversions and a penalty to round off the Cheetahs’ 22-point first-half haul.
For the visiting Cardiff, flyhalf Gareth Anscombe goaled two penalties for his side’s only first-half points.
As the second half wound its course, the Welsh visitors slowly chipped away at the lead and with some 12 minutes left, they managed to score three answered tries to take a 27-22 lead.
Left wing Owen Lane, centre Willis Halaholo and substitute Rey Lee-Lo scored the tries, and Steve Shingler was on target with all three conversion attempts to round off a 21-point burst.
In the final minute, the Cheetahs staged one last desperate effort to save the game, and their final surge was halted a metre from the tryline, after which a succession of penalties followed, all in favour of the home side.
Each time the Cheetahs called for scrums, and each time they managed to push the visitors off the ball without success until the Scottish referee Mike Adamson intervened and awarded a match-winning penalty try – six minutes after the fulltime hooter had sounded.
Cheetahs 29 – Tries: Sibahle Maxwane (2), Francois Venter, Penalty Try. Conversions: Niel Marais (2). Penalty: Marais (1).
Cardiff Blues 27 – Tries: Owen Lane, Willis Halaholo, Rey Lee-Lo. Conversions: Steve Shingler (3). Penalties: Gareth Anscombe (2).
African News Agency (ANA)