The Cheetahs ended their Australasian tour with a morale-boosting 24-15 win over the Force in Perth on Saturday. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
Tries from Raymond Rhule and Heinrich Brüssow plus 14 points from the boot of Joe Pietersen were enough to see the Cheetahs past the lowly Force, but it was their steadfast defence, especially in the second half that secured their first win since the second week of the competition.
Coming into the match, the Cheetahs held the unenviable tag of worst defence in the competition, but defied expectations to keep the Force at bay, despite a second-half siege.
Brüssow was once again instrumental for the visitors – making 20 tackles, before winning a crucial penalty in the 78th minute – and was ably backed up by the tireless work of Boom Prinsloo and Willie Britz.
The Cheetahs started positively, and showed great patience on attack to work an opening for Raymond Rhule to go over for the first try of the match.
However, their lead was short-lived, with Rhule at fault, as he came off his wing to assist Pietersen, allowing Force fullback Dane Haylett-Petty to free his hands and find Luke Morahan, who went over in the corner. Luke Burton added the extras to give the hosts the lead with 15 minutes gone.
With conditions difficult underfoot, the first half saw a litany off errors, and very little in the way of continuity from either side. The proceedings weren't helped as referee Rohan Hoffman allowed both teams to get away with murder at the breakdown, making for a scrappy affair.
Pietersen and Burton traded penalties late on, as the Force went into the break leading 10-8.
The hosts were handed an opportunity to extend their lead at the start of the second half as the Cheetahs made a hash of clearing their lines. From the resultant lineout, the Force rumbled the ball over the line, with replacement flank Chris Alcock coming up with the ball and the try. However, Burton was unable to add the extras. His miss would prove costly.
The Cheetahs hit back through Pietersen, as a penalty and drop goal in quick succession brought them to within a point with 30 minutes still to play.
For all their possession and territory, the Force never looked likely to score in the face of the aggressive and disciplined Cheetahs defence and it was the visitors who hit the front, as Brüssow went over from the back of a driving maul to give them a six-point lead.
The Force continued to attack, but there was no way through the Cheetahs' defensive wall. After taking the ball through 26 phases, Nick Cummins knocked on in contact, with the Cheetahs taking the ball back 90m before winning a penalty from the resulting lineout.
Pietersen, who was superb off the kicking tee all night, made no mistake, as the Cheetahs made it two from two for South African teams against Australian opposition with the match at Loftus still to come.
Force – Tries: Luke Morahan, Chris Alcock. Conversion: Luke Burton. Penalty: Burton.
Cheetahs – Tries: Raymond Rhule, Heinrich Brüssow. Conversion: Joe Pietersen. Penalties: Pietersen (3). Drop goal: Pietersen.
Force – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Luke Burton, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Steve Mafi, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Sam Wykes (c), 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan.
Subs: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Angus Cottrell, 20 Chris Alcock, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Marcel Brache.
Cheetahs – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Boom Prinsloo, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 BG Uys.
Subs: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Danie Minnie, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Steven Sykes, 20 Tienie Burger, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Willie du Plessis, 23 Rayno Benjamin.
Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images