The Cheetahs suffered their fifth defeat in six matches when they went down 40-30 to the Blues at Eden Park in Auckland, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
This was a much better performance from the tourists, who fought back from 30-16 down at the break to trail 37-30 with 12 minutes to go. However, while the Cheetahs scored two excellent second-half tries, the Blues went over for their fourth and a penalty from Simon Hickey put the result beyond doubt.
Both sides showed a willingness to attack with ball in hand, but their defence was less impressive. The Blues missed 12 tackles and the Cheetahs 10.
The game began with Hickey and Goosen trading penalties, before Steven Luatua barged over for the first try.
The visitors responded through Boom Prinsloo, who went over from a lineout drive, but he was sent to the sin bin five minutes later for going offside at a ruck in the red zone.
The Blues would score 17 points while the flanker was off the field. Hickey slotted a penalty before George Moala went over. From the restart, Willie le Roux fumbled while fielding a clearance kick inside his 22 and Jackson Willison put Tevita Li away for his side's third try.
The Cheetahs then suffered another blow just before the break when Goosen left the field with an arm injury, and was replaced with Elgar Watts. Trevor Nyakane also came on for Caylib Oosthuizen.
After a scoreless third quarter, a good set-piece move saw Cornal Hendriks break away. The former Blitzbok had Johann Sadie on his outside but opted to cut back inside and beat the cover defence to score a try that reduced the deficit to seven.
The Blues, though, made it 37-23 when they turned down a kick at goal and Tony Woodcock went over from a strong scrum.
Hennie Daniller gave the Cheetahs hope when he scored their third try, but Hickey extinguished it with his fourth penalty.
Blues – Tries: Steven Luatua, George Moala, Tevita Li, Tony Woodcock. Conversions: Simon Hickey (4). Penalties: Hickey (4).
Cheetahs – Tries: Boom Prinsloo, Cornal Hendricks, Hennie Daniller. Conversions: Johan Goosen, Elgar Watts (2). Penalties: Goosen (2), Watts.
Blues – 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 George Moala, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Angus Ta'avao, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Jerome Kaino, 20 Hayden Triggs, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Ma'a Nonu, 23 Benji Marshall.
Cheetahs – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Hennie Daniller, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Jean Cook, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Nicolaas van Dyk, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Subs: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Rossouw de Klerk, 19 Andries Ferreira, 20 Lappies Labuschagne, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Howard Mnisi.
Photo: Jason Oxenham/Getty Images