The Free State Cheetahs produced a dominant second-half display to clinch a 44-16 bonus-point win over the Boland Cavaliers in Wellington on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The Bloemfontein-based side led by just a solitary point at half-time, but they cleaned up their act with a much improved second-half performance, and the Cheetahs ultimately outscored their opponents 34-7 during this period to come away with an emphatic result.
Cheetahs prop Ox Nche had a superb game, producing some strong runs in open play, while Fred Zeilinga controlled proceedings well from flyhalf and kept the scoreboard ticking over with his accuracy in front of posts.
The Cheetahs established early ascendancy when they powered into a 10-0 lead in as many minutes, with Fred Zeilinga slotting a penalty before then creating a try with a well-weighted cross-kick that ultimately enabled Sergeal Petersen to collect and dot down in the corner.
Despite the strong start from the visitors, Boland did prove during the Currie Cup qualifying competition that they are a side that shouldn’t be taken lightly, and they gradually worked their way back into the match.
Deservedly, an impressive multi-phase buildup just before the half-hour mark then saw fullback Nico Scheepers slot a second penalty of the afternoon and reduce the deficit to just four points.
Although a number of untimely errors prevented the Cheetahs from establishing any real rhythm to their attack in the first period, the one area where they did have the upper hand was at scrum time.
Indeed, it was from this set piece that a platform was provided for Raymond Rhule to produce a beautiful break, and after the ball was recycled, Petersen looked to have scored in the corner, but he lost the ball in the act of placing it over the tryline.
That missed opportunity would have frustrated the Cheetahs no end, while they would have also lamented their ill-discipline, which saw seven penalties conceded in the opening stanza.
As it was, a penalty given away just before the break enabled Scheepers to slot another three-pointer, and somehow Boland found themselves just one point behind at half-time.
There’s no doubt there would have been some strong words spoken in the Cheetahs' change room at the interval, and they began proceedings in the second stanza with clear intent and a definite desire to up the tempo.
They received due reward when Zeilinga stretched the visitors' lead with another penalty soon after the restart, while two quick-fire tries to Raymond Rhule and William Small-Smith suddenly saw the Cheetahs shoot into a handy 27-9 lead.
Zeilinga kept the scoreboard ticking over with another penalty soon after, while Shaun Venter finally wrapped up the bonus-point try when he sold a dummy and darted over to score in the 55th minute.
Suddenly 28 points ahead, the Cheetahs were home and dry, although Boland at least managed to make the scoreline look a little more flattering when Danwel Demas scored in the 68th minute.
Yet, the hosts would have the final say when captain Francois Venter scored the Cheetahs' fifth try late in the game to complete a resounding second-half performance.
Boland Cavaliers – Try: Danwel Demas. Conversion: Nico Scheepers. Penalties: Scheepers (3).
Free State Cheetahs – Tries: Sergeal Petersen, Raymond Rhule, William Small-Smith, Shaun Venter, Francois Venter. Conversions: Fred Zeilinga (5). Penalties: Zeilinga (3).
Boland Cavaliers – 15 Nico Scheepers, 14 Sergio Torrens, 13 Ryan Nell (c), 12 Christopher Bosch, 11 Danwel Demas, 10 Adriaan Carelse, 9 Marnus Hugo, 8 Zandre Jordaan, 7 Jacques Engelbrecht, 6 Kenan Cronje, 5 Johannes Kitshoff, 4 Shaun McDondald, 3 Basil Short, 2 Clemen Lewis, 1 Stephanus Wessels.
Subs: 16 Chadley Wenn, 17 Francois Hanekom, 18 Joubert Horn, 19 Chaney Willemse, 20 Jovelian de Koker, 21 William van Wyk, 22 Craig Pheiffer.
Free State Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Neill Jordaan, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Justin Basson, 19 Henco Venter, 20 Tian Meyer, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
Photo: Luke Walker/Gallo Images