The Cheetahs scored three second-half tries to claim a 31-25 bonus-point victory against Benetton Treviso at the Free State Stadium on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
In many ways, the game showed some of the issues plaguing this youthful Cheetahs side, as they continue their recovery from a player exodus. They created a plethora of opportunities, but were forced into poor decisions by some excellent defending in the first half.
By contrast, the wily Italians ensured they came away from their few visits into the Cheetahs 22 with points, while they were aided by some poor discipline from the hosts.
However, this time Franco Smith’s side managed to come out with a win in another topsy-turvy battle.
Cheetahs loosehead Ox Nche was a standout player for the home side, dominant at the scrum and winning a couple of turnover penalties.
It was a shaky start from the Cheetahs as flyhalf Tian Schoeman overcooked his kick off into the dead-ball area. From the ensuing scrum, Treviso launched an attack, taking the ball through the phases and getting near the Cheetahs line. Some good hands saw wing Marco Zanon go over in the corner.
However, the hosts hit back almost immediately off a lineout in the Treviso area when Nico Lee ran a perfect line on to a pass from Shaun Venter to slice through the defence and dot down under the posts.
Another error from Schoeman, this time off a 22m dropout, gave the visitors a scrum in the Cheetahs 22. Treviso won a penalty, which flyhalf Ian McKinley converted.
Treviso extended their lead when lock Federico Ruzza, who made plenty of metres with ball in hand, broke the line and offloaded to Dewaldt Duvenage to score.
The Cheetahs tried to release the deadly Rabz Maxwane late in the half, but again Treviso stood their ground to go into the break 15-7 up.
The hosts started the second half far better than they did the first, with Schoeman placing a couple of good kicks behind the defence.
They deservedly narrowed the gap to only a single point when Junior Pokomela and Joseph Dweba combined to bring them into Treviso territory. Venter sniped from the back of a ruck to reach over and score.
Some more ill-discipline allowed McKinley to kick his second penalty, but the Cheetahs took the lead through energetic fetcher Gerhard Olivier, who muscled over from the back of a maul. McKinley then stepped past a couple of would-be tacklers to again put the visitors ahead.
However, another powerful driving maul saw No 8 Daniel Maartens cross the line, with a penalty from Louis Fouche giving the Cheetahs a lead which they did not give up.
Cheetahs – Tries: Nico Lee, Shaun Venter, Gerhard Olivier, Daniel Maartens. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (3), Louis Fouche. Penalty: Fouche.
Benetton Treviso – Tries: Marco Zanon, Dewaldt Duvenage, Ian McKinley. Conversions: McKinley (2). Penalties: McKinley (2).
Cheetahs – 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 Rhyno Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Nico Lee, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Shaun Venter (c), 8 Daniel Maartens, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Marnus van der Merwe, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Erich de Jager, 19 Sinthu Manjezi, 20 Abongile Nonkontwana, 21 Rudi Paige, 22 Louis Fouche, 23 William Small-Smith.
Benetton Treviso – 15 Angelo Esposito, 14 Marco Zanon, 13 Tommaso Iannone, 12 Ignacio Brex, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Ian McKinley, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Marco Barbini (c), 7 Michele Lamaro, 6 Giovanni Pettinelli, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Giuseppe Di Stefano, 2 Tomas Baravalle, 1 Nicola Quaglio.
Subs: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Derrick Appiah, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 Niccolò Cannone, 20 Marco Lazzaroni, 21 Giorgio Bronzini, 22 Antonio Rizzi, 23 Alberto Sgarbi.