Fred Zeilinga kicked a 77th-minute penalty to give the Cheetahs a 30-29 victory over the Force in Bloemfontein on Saturday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
After the Force had fought back from 27-10 down to lead 29-27, Zeilinga stepped up to take the pressure kick and he coolly split the uprights with his long-range attempt. Peter Grant had an opportunity to win the match for the Force in the last minute, but his attempt was well off target.
When these sides last met in Bloemfontein, in round 13 in 2014, the Force outscored the Cheetahs two tries to one to secure a 23-16 win. This time around, the Cheetahs outscored them four tries to three in a one-point win.
It was a guarded start by both teams, as they tested the opposition’s defence. But while it was the Force who drew first blood with a successful shot at goal following a high tackle on Jono Lance, it was the hosts who would eventually seize control of the contest with a flurry of tries. The Force then made a strong second-half surge and were unlucky not to snatch the win.
After going behind in the eighth minute to a penalty by Force scrumhalf Ian Prior, the Cheetahs cruised out to a comfortable 24-10 lead around the half-hour mark and on the stroke of half-time flyhalf Fred Zeilinga slotted a penalty for a 17-point cushion at the turn.
No 8 Paul Schoeman scored the game’s opening try when he shrewdly picked the ball up at a ruck and planted it at the base of the posts. From there, the Force looked incapable of matching the speed the Cheetahs injected into the match as they started to slip off a couple of tackles.
Uzair Cassiem was next to touch down, once the Cheetahs had the Force defence stretched out wide. All the blindside flanker had to do was hang on to to captain Francois Venter’s perfectly executed no-look pass to increase their lead.
Unable to hold on to the ball for long periods, the Force looked down and out. But a brilliant piece of individual play by flank Chris Alcock, who casually broke through the Cheetahs line, set up Kyle Godwin for a score to close the deficit to two. But again, the Cheetahs’ offence proved too good and soon Clayton Blommetjies and Sergeal Petersen crossed the Force line.
A lapse in concentration by the Cheetahs helped the Force mount a remarkable comeback in the second half. The rejuvenated visitors calmly overturned the 17-point deficit when they accumulated 19 unanswered points via two tries by lively fullback Dane Haylett-Petty and three penalties – one by Prior and two by his replacement Grant – for a 29-27 lead with seven minutes remaining.
The Cheetahs, who looked asleep for much of that one-sided second half, strung a couple of phases together and when they received the desired penalty, Zeilinga stepped up in a big way to win it for his team.
There was still an opportunity for the Force to sneak a victory, but Grant's penalty was well short and wide, and the Cheetahs then maintained their discipline during one last desperate Force attack.
Cheetahs – Tries: Paul Schoeman, Uzair Cassiem, Clayton Blommetjies, Sergeal Petersen. Conversions: Fred Zeilinga (2). Penalty: Zeilinga (2).
Force – Tries: Kyle Godwin, Dane Haylett-Petty (2). Conversion: Ian Prior. Penalties: Prior (2), Peter Grant (2).
Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Luan de Bruin, 18 Johan Coetzee, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 George Whitehead, 23 William Small-Smith.
Force – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Junior Rasolea, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Marcel Brache, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Angus Cottrell, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Harry Scoble, 1 Pek Cowan.
Subs: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Guy Millar, 19 Roro Walton, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Peter Grant, 23 Semisi Masirewa.
Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images