The Force moved to fourth on the combined Super Rugby log with a 23-16 win against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, reports SIMON BORCHARDT.
The Cheetahs paid the price for an all-out attacking game that saw the ball go wide at every opportunity. They attacked too far behind the advantage line and passed too early, which allowed the flat Force defence to drift across field and negate the threat out wide. The Cheetahs also struggled at the scrums, with Pek Cowan dominating Coenie Oosthuizen, and at the breakdown, with the Force punishing them from turnovers.
Sias Ebersohn opened the scoring with a penalty against his former team-mates, and while Johan Goosen's first attempt went wide, he made no mistake with his second.
The Force, though, were dominating possession, and Kyle Godwin came close to scoring when he was bundled into touch in the right-hand corner. Godwin did get over the line soon after, but the TMO ruled that there had been an accidental offsides in the build-up when Adam Coleman had kicked the ball into Ebersohn in front of him.
After another Ebersohn penalty, the Cheetahs took play through seven phases, with Oosthuizen storming into the Force 22. But the absence of cleaners saw Matt Hodgson force the turnover and Jayden Hayward scored at the other end after some good work from another South African, Marcel Brache. Ebersohn nailed the touchline conversion and added a penalty to make it 16-3, before Goosen clawed three back with a penalty just before the hooter.
The Cheetahs started the second half well, and found themselves with a one-man advantage when Hodgson was yellow-carded for a cynical infringement at a red-zone ruck. They kicked to touch instead of at goal, won the lineout, and while Teboho Mohoje was tackled just short, Boom Prinsloo was able to plant it on the line. The referee awarded a 5m scrum, but went to the TMO after a request from Adriaan Strauss, and the try was awarded.
That good work was undone when Goosen's pass was intercepted by Hayward on the Force 10m line. The fullback popped it up to Brache, and he found Godwin, who took play into the 22. Two phases later, Nick Cummins crossed the line unopposed for a converted try.
Goosen's third penalty brought his side to within seven and they thought they had levelled the scores when Oosthuizen reached out for the line. But the TMO ruled that the ball had been planted just short before rolled forward, and the prop was penalised.
The Cheetahs wouldn't get that close again, as the Force recorded an important away win to boost their play-off hopes.
Cheetahs – Try: Boom Prinsloo. Conversion: Johan Goosen. Penalties: Goosen (3).
Force – Tries: Jayden Hayward, Nick Cummins. Conversions: Sias Ebersohn (2). Penalties: Ebersohn (3).
Cheetahs – 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Willie le Roux, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Boom Prinsloo, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Waltie Vermeulen, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Subs: 16 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Carel Greeff, 20 Willem Serfontein, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Cornal Hendricks.
Force – 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Sam Wykes, 4 Adam Coleman, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Subs: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Justin Turner, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Chris Tuatara-Morrison.
LEATHERMAN SA PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Unfortunately for the Cheetahs, the best South African player was wearing a Force jersey. Sias Ebersohn proved a point against his former team-mates with a flawless goal-kicking performance. He also controlled the game well for the visitors with ball in hand.
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Photo: Gerhard Steenkamp/BackpagePix