The Free State Cheetahs scored nine tries in their 57-25 win against the EP Kings in Bloemfontein on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
The Cheetahs came into this match as heavy favourites, having won all three of their Currie Cup fixtures, while the Kings had lost all four of theirs. This was EP's third game in seven days – their rescheduled clash with Griquas was played on Wednesday – which forced coach Barend Pieterse to make 12 changes to his team.
The Kings were competitive early on, but the Cheetahs soon took charge. The hosts dominated the scrum battle, disrupted the visitors' lineout, and made 807 running metres compared to their opponents' 288. The Kings were forced to make 220 tackles of which they missed 34.
The Cheetahs made an early statement when they smashed the Kings scrum on halfway, but Fred Zeilinga was unable to slot the resultant penalty-goal attempt.
Both teams made a lot of errors in the opening stages, before the visitors enjoyed a good passage of play that saw them awarded a scrum 5m out from the Cheetahs' tryline. When the Kings earned a scrum penalty, they took a quick tap, and two phases later Johan Greyling dotted down in the left-hand corner. Pieter-Steyn de Wet slotted the difficult conversion.
Zeilinga responded with two penalty goals, the second of which came from another scrum. The hosts then took the lead at the end of the first quarter when they stole a Kings lineout and launched a sustained attack that was finished off by Nico Lee.
Tom Botha scored the Cheetahs' second try five minutes later, when he crashed over from close range to make it 18-7. De Wet clawed three points back for the Kings, but they would concede another try when Paul Schoeman brushed off two poor tackle attempts to score.
The Cheetahs attacked again from the restart, with Lee taking play up to the Kings 22. But instead of passing inside to an unmarked man he went outside to Clayton Blommetjies, whose pass to Raymond Rhule was knocked on. Another chance then went abegging when a good tackle from Johann Tromp (one of the players who had missed Schoeman) saw the flyhalf lose possession.
It took the Cheetahs 13 minutes of the second half to add to their tally when quick hands saw Schoeman go over in the right-hand corner for the bonus-point try.
De Wet slotted a long-range drop goal for EP, before Free State responded with two tries from two replacements, Charles Marais and Niel Marais. The latter missed both conversions but at 38-13 it didn't matter much.
The Cheetahs weren't done yet, though, as Lee chased down his own grubber to score under the posts and Ox Nche bounced off Ganfried May to grab his side's eighth try.
Berton Klaasen then crossed the line for EP, before Free State scored from the restart through Charl Marais. And while Vince Jobo dotted down after the hooter, it came as scant consolation for the outgunned Kings.
Free State Cheetahs – Tries: Nico Lee, Tom Botha, Paul Schoeman (2), Charles Marais (2), Niel Marais, Nico Lee, Ox Nche. Conversions: Fred Zeilinga, Niel Marais (2). Penalties: Zeilinga (2).
EP Kings – Tries: Johan Greyling, Berton Klaasen, Vince Jobo. Conversions: Pieter-Steyn de Wet, Kobus Marais. Penalty: De Wet. Drop goal: De Wet.
Free State Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rayno Benjamin, 13 Nico Lee, 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer (c), 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Justin Basson, 19 Henco Venter, 20 Shaun Venter, 21 Niel Marais, 22 Michael van der Spuy.
EP Kings – 15 Johann Tromp, 14 Siviwe Soyizwapi, 13 Johan Greyling, 12 Berton Klaasen, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 9 Ricky Schroeder (c), 8 Christiaan De Bruin, 7 Etienne Oosthuizen, 6 Vince Jobo, 5 Sebastian Ferreira, 4 Dylan Pieterse, 3 Vukile Sofisa, 2 Mike Willemse, 1 Justin Forwood.
Subs: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Barend Potgieter, 18 Hannes Huishame, 19 Brandon Brown, 20 Vian van der Walt, 21 Kobus Marais, 22 Ganfried May.
Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images