George Whitehead helped his team to a narrow win over the Free State Cheetahs in their Currie Cup game. Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

BLOEMFONTEIN – Griquas made a dramatic second-half comeback to upset the Cheetahs 30-25 in a hugely exciting Currie Cup match in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

The home side went into the game having taken maximum points from all of their Currie Cup games to top the log, while Griquas had ended a three-match losing run when they beat Western Province in their previous encounter.

The Cheetahs seemed in control of the game at half time but in a pulsating second half, the result was decided at the death when Griquas scored.

The Cheetahs started the stronger and after four minutes flyhalf Ryno Eksteen kicked the first points of the game, only to have it undone by his Griquas counterpart Andre Swarts just a minute later.

But the Cheetahs continued their pressure and flank Neil Jordaan was on the end of a strong build-up of phases, with Eksteen’s conversion of the captain’s try putting his side ahead 10-3 on 15 minutes.

Swarts narrowed the deficit to 10-6 after the Cheetahs were penalised for illegal scrummaging.

The Cheetahs came within centimetres of scoring when livewire scrumhalf  Zee Mkhabela broke clean through from the halfway line, and set up lock Armand Koster for a charge to the line but he lost the ball in the tackle. The Cheetahs remained in the Griquas 22 and from an advancing scrum near the line, Jordaan scored his second try and the Eksteen conversion made it 17-6 with 10 minutes to the break.

Right before the interval, the Cheetahs had  a try disallowed because of a marginal forward pass and 17-6 was perhaps a fair reflection of the first half.

Griquas fought back immediately after the whistle for the second half, and in controversial circumstances.

Flyhalf Swart had broken straight through the midfield defence and offloaded to scrumhalf Shaun Venter who could only get a boot to the ball and in the scramble for the dot-down, Cheetahs wing Makazole Mapimpi was adjudged to have shoved Venter and was yellow carded. The try was not awarded, but Swart continued his purple patch with another break, this time he scored himself and converted to bring his side back into the game at 13-17, and with Cheetahs down to 14 men.

The visitors took the lead when replacement No 8 De Wet Kruger scored after a heavily dominant scrum, with Swarts’ conversion giving his side a 20-17 lead with a quarter of the game to go.

Griquas were dominating and the home side were very fortunate when Swarts missed two relatively easy kicks at goal. Instead, the Cheetahs won a penalty at ruck time and Clayton Blommetjies levelled the scores at 20-20 with 10 minutes to go.

Griquas substitute wing George Whitehead then nudged his team ahead with a well-taken penalty. The Cheetahs with five minutes to play snatched the lead, when Ryno Benjamin threaded a grubber through the defence for Mapimpi to gather and score.

But the Cheetahs’ celebrations were premature, with Kruger charging over in the corner for a dramatic try with 90 seconds remaining and Whitehead’s conversion confirmed a famous 30-25 victory.

Scorers:
Cheetahs 25 (17) – Tries:  Neil Jordaan (2), Makazole Mapimpi. Conversions:  Ryno Eksteen (2). Penalties: Ryno Eksteen, Clayton Blommetjies.
Griquas 30 (6) – Tries: Andre Swarts, De Wet Kruger (2). Penalties: Andre Swarts (2), George Whitehead. Conversions:  Swarts (2), Whitehead. 

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