Hooker Joseph Dweba was one of the try-scorers for the Cheetahs on Saturday. Photo: BackpagePix

BLOEMFONTEIN – The struggling Cheetahs just could not get their act together at the Free State Stadium on Saturday, going down 21-17 to Connacht in the PRO14.

The visitors started off like a house on fire and built up a 15-point lead before the 30-minute mark.

It all started in the seventh minute, when centre Tom Farrell showed the Cheetahs a clean pair of heels to score the first try of the match.

Flyhalf Jack Carty converted and also slotted over a penalty in the 21st minute to stretch the lead to 10-0.

Clever play by the Irish saw them score a second try. Connacht were unstoppable after a lineout maul, and lock Gavin Thornbury drove over to put his side in a commanding 15-0 lead.

The Cheetahs tried their utmost to get back into the game, but mistakes at crucial moments hampered their chances.

The South African side, however, got the scoreboard ticking in the 31st minute when the dangerous fullback Malcolm Jaer outsprinted the Connacht defence to dot down.  The conversion was unsuccessful.

The home side was suddenly playing with much more purpose and put Connacht under great pressure.

The Cheetahs drew even closer when hooker Joseph Dweba scored following a maul. The hosts had a chance to take three points, but decided to use the lineout as a weapon of attack.

This led to Dweba’s try that brought the halftime score to 15-10.

In the second half, Connacht piled on the pressure once more, and replacement flyhalf David Horwitz slotted two early penalties to increase his side’s lead to 21-10.

It was clear that the heat was starting to affect the visitors badly, and the Cheetahs tried to manipulate the situation by increasing the pressure.

Scrumhalf Shaun Venter rounded off a brilliant backline move to score after great work from centre William Small-Smith, and flyhalf Tian Schoeman added the further two points with the conversion (21-17).

The Cheetahs have only won one of their previous nine matches this season, and in the last 10 minutes played like a side desperate for success, but just could not get the desired breakthrough.

The Irish team ended their two-match tour of South Africa with a second win after beating the Kings last week.

Points-Scorers

Cheetahs 17 – Tries: Malcolm Jaer, Joseph Dweba, Shaun Venter. Conversion: Tian Schoeman (1).

Connacht 21 – Tries: Tom Farrell, Gavin Thornbury. Conversion: Jack Carty (1). Penalties: Carty, David Horwell (2).

African News Agency (ANA)