Leading PRO14 try-scorer Rabz Maxwane opened the Cheetahs account against Zebre on Saturday. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

The Cheetahs recorded their third PRO14 victory in a row by thrashing Italian side Zebre 61-28 in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

The bonus-point victory kept the Cheetahs’ slim hopes of a place in the playoffs alive.

The home side started off positively when the competition’s leading try-scorer, left wing Rabz Maxwane, rounded off a great move in the second minute.

The visitors threatened to spoil the party when right wing Paula Balekana scored in the sixth minute, and flyhalf Carlo Canna converted for a 7-5 lead.

But that was where the cheering stopped for Zebre, as the Cheetahs took total control. Tries by fullback Malcolm Jaer, lock Sintu Majezi and flanker Abongile Nonkontwana took the wind completely out of Zebre’s sails.

Schoeman converted all three tries to put his team in a commanding 26-7 lead at halftime.

The Italians struggled in the intense heat in the first half, and could not close all the holes in defence.

Cheetahs prop Ox Nche forced his way over the try line early in the second half after great work from replacement scrumhalf Shaun Venter.

Zebre hit back soon afterwards when South African flank Johan Meyer forced his way over, which Canna converted to reduce the deficit to 31-14.

The visitors dotted down again when replacement Apisai Tauyavuca crossed the try line, and Canna was again successful with the conversion (33-21).

Zebre played with a new lease of life and put great pressure on the home side.

A try in the 61st minute by Venter after a quick tap and go put the Cheetahs back in control.

Flank Junior Pokomela then added a seventh try four minutes later, although Zebre lock George Biagi scored a bonus point try in the 71st minute.

The Cheetahs ended the match with just 14 men after replacement Justin Basson was red-carded in the 73rd minute for dangerous play.

Venter scored his second try and Nico Lee also crossed for the Cheetahs.

Points-Scorers

Cheetahs 61 – Tries: Rabz Maxwane, Malcolm Jaer, Sintu Majezi, Abogile Nonkontwana, Ox Nche, Shaun Venter (2), Junior Pokomela, Nico Lee. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (8).

Zebre 28 – Tries: Paula Balekana, Johan Meyer, Apisai Tauyavuca, George Biagi. Conversions: Carlo Canna (4).

African News Agency (ANA)