The Cardiff Blues came from behind to beat the Cheetahs 24-21 in Cardiff on Friday. DYLAN JACK reports.
In a high-intensity match, the Blues found themselves 11 points behind going into the final quarter. But, as they did against Ulster last week, the Cheetahs struggled to keep their concentration in the final quarter and let the lead slip.
It is a pity for Franco Smith’s men as, aside from the final 15 minutes of each half, they had much the better of the game and few would have argued had they come away from it with their first win of the season.
It was an electric if scrappy start to the game, with both sides competing ferociously at the breakdown.
The visitors opened the scoring when lock Walt Steenkamp opportunistically grounded the ball over the line after it was stripped from a Cheetahs maul.
However, the Blues hit back soon after when centre Ray Lee-Lo gathered a kick through from Gareth Anscombe and dotted down to level the scores, despite suspicions of a knock-on.
The rest of the half was a Blues onslaught as the Cheetahs started to tire, but the hosts only managed to add a penalty to put themselves into the lead at half-time.
As they did in the first half, the Cheetahs saw much of the early ball in the second, but struggled to make any headway through an aggressive Cardiff defence.
They did, however, regain the lead in controversial circumstances as the TMO again overlooked a potential knock-on as well as a forward pass as wing Sibhale Maxwane dived onto a Schoeman grubber to score.
The centre combo of Nico Lee and Benhard Janse van Rensburg then dovetailed brilliantly, with Janse van Rensburg running a perfect line onto Lee’s pop pass to cut through and score the Cheetahs’ third.
The Blues then laid siege to the Cheetahs line and got themselves right back into the game when replacement scrumhalf Lloyd Williams sniped through a gap to run through untouched.
A massive Blues maul, which carried the pack over 22m, gave them the winning try, with flank Olly Robinson rising with the ball.
Cardiff Blues – Tries: Rey Lee-Lo, Lloyd Williams, Olly Robinson. Conversions: Gareth Anscombe (3). Penalty: Anscombe
Cheetahs – Tries: Walt Steenkamp, Sibhale Maxwane, Benhard Janse van Rensburg. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (3).
Cardiff Blues – 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Jason Harries, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Josh Turnbull, 7 Ellis Jenkins (c), 6 Olly Robinson, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 George Earle, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Rhys Gill.
Subs: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Sion Bennett, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Steven Shingler, 23 Garyn Smith.
Cheetahs – 15 Ryno Eksteen, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Nico Lee, 11 Sibhale Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer (c), 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 Jean-Pierre Du Preez, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Johannes Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Jacques Du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Günther Janse van Vuuren, 19 Justin Basson, 20 Stephan Malan, 21 Daniel Maartens, 22 Shaun Venter, 23 Louis Fouché.
Photo: en Evans/Huw Evans Agency/Gallo Images