Cheetahs take down their prey
BLOEMFONTEIN - The Cheetahs were back to their winning ways, beating the Reds 27-13 in their Super Rugby encounter in the Free State Stadium on Saturday evening in Bloemfontein.
The victory meant the Cheetahs had completed a clean sweep against their Australian opposition thus far, beating the Force and Waratahs away, and the Rebels and Reds at home.
The Reds started at a frenetic pace and a possible try by winger Rod Davies in the first minute went begging after obstruction in midfield.
The Cheetahs stepped up a gear and scrum half Piet van Zyl scored in the corner, in the fourth minute, after charging down a clearing kick from his opposite number Will Genia.
Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper, who put in the eventual chip kick for Davies to follow, put the Cheetahs under pressure with some good tactical kicking. However, he slipped the tackle which lead to Van Zyl's try.
Fly half Elgar Watts kicked a penalty in the 13th minute to give the Cheetahs a eight point lead after they turned over possession.
The visitors had at least three chances in the first 20 minutes to score tries, but despite challenging the hosts in defence, they kept losing possession at the break down area.
Cooper finally put some points on the board when he kicked a penalty after Cheetahs flanker Lappies Labuschagne infringed on the ground.
Cooper reduced the deficit to just two points with his second penalty of the evening shortly thereafter.
Their joy was short-lived as Van Zyl scored his second try, cutting through the visitors' defence from first phase possession.
Watts converted to elevate the Cheetahs to a nine-point lead and followed up with a penalty after the Reds collapsed the Cheetahs' driving maul.
The Cheetahs had the momentum in the last five minutes of the first half and went into the break with an 18-6 lead.
At the restart, they set up camp in the Reds' half and Watts slotted home a penalty which resulted from the Reds grounding a driving maul.
A clever inside pass by Quade Cooper from a scrum on the Cheetahs goal line looked like a good try for full back Luke Morahan, but the replay showed a forward pass from the Wallabies' playmaker.
Both teams started playing a more expansive game which led to more penalties with the visitors opting to use the line out. It put the Cheetahs under immense pressure but, again, a forward pass smothered their chance of a five pointer.
The Cheetahs, meanwhile, scored points almost every time they progressed into the Reds' half with Watts adding another six points to his tally.
Replacement back Ben Lucas scored in the corner three minutes from time for the Reds but it was too little too late for the visitors.
- Cheetahs 27 (18): Tries: Piet van Zyl (2). Conversions: Elgar Watts. Penalties: Elgar Watts (5).
- Reds 13 (6): Tries: Ben Lucas. Conversion: Quade Cooper. Penalties: Quade Cooper (2).