The Cheetahs survived a late onslaught to secure an exciting 18-13 victory against the Ospreys in Swansea on Saturday.
The Ospreys (on a five-game losing streak) and the Cheetahs (who had lost three games on the bounce) were both bidding to end difficult runs and in the process ease the mounting pressure on their respective coaches.
And the two least in-form sides in the Pro14 gave it a fair crack, but in the end it was the Cheetahs who held their nerve when the game hung in the balance at the death, despite conceding a yellow card and defending right on their own tryline.
The Cheetahs broke the Ospreys’ line at will during the opening exchanges and wrestled the momentum early in the contest when centre William Small-Smith finished off a well-worked team effort. But while Ruan Pienaar added to the visitors’ tally with a penalty, their early endeavour wilted as the Ospreys rallied back to take a surprise 10-8 lead into the sheds at half-time.
Small-Smith 👉 Big Finish 💥
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) November 30, 2019
The second half was a dreary, error-strewn affair as both sides struggled to make inroads. However, the Ospreys’ dominance in the scrum meant they were more likely to extend their advantage.
But having withstood the initial pressure after the break, it was the Cheetahs who had the first opportunity at points with a penalty in front of the posts. Only this time, the ever-reliable Pienaar hooked his attempt at goal and as a result was immediately relieved of the kicking duties, which then fell to Tian Schoeman.
Things livened up in the last quarter. The Cheetahs scored through hooker Wilmar Arnoldi before Schoeman and Price traded penalties to set up a grandstand finish. And the scales tipped in the Ospreys’ favour when lock Sintu Manjezi was sent off for collapsing the maul 5m from the tryline in the 81st minute.
With the clock well into stoppage time, the hosts set another attacking lineout, but their effort at getting a match-defining score was foiled when the Cheetahs – legitimately this time – stopped the rolling maul in its tracks to win turnover possession and as a result also the game.
Ospreys – Try: Ma’afu Fia. Conversion: Luke Price. Penalties: Price (2).
Cheetahs – Tries: William Small-Smith, Wilmar Arnoldi. Conversion: Tian Schoeman. Penalties: Ruan Pienaar, Schoeman.
Ospreys – 15 Dan Evans, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Luke Price, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Morgan Morris, 7 Olly Cracknell, 6 Dan Lydiate (c), 5 Lloyd Ashley, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Ma’afu Fia, 2 Scott Otten, 1 Rhodri Jones.
Subs: 16 Ifan Phillips, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Gheorghe Gajion, 19 Guido Volpi, 20 Sam Cross, 21 Matthew Aubrey, 22 James Hook, 23 Kieran Williams.
Cheetahs – 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Craig Barry, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 11 Clayton Blommetjies, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Ruan Pienaar (c), 8 Aidon Davis, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Chris Massyn, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Wilmar Arnoldi, 1 Boan Venter.
Subs: 16 Marnus van der Merwe 17 Reinach Venter 18 Erich de Jager 19 JP du Preez 20 Gerhard Olivier 21 Tian Meyer 22 George Whitehead 23 Chris Smith.
Photo: Pro14 Rugby