WP survive Cheetahs fightback

Rayno Benjamin dropped the ball with the tryline at his mercy to allow WP to escape with a 9-3 win in Cape Town on Saturday, JON CARDINELLI reports.

Western Province have recorded their first home win of the domestic campaign, and their first under new coach John Dobson. They will be pleased with their scrummaging performance against the Cheetahs, as well as a three-from-four goal-kicking display by Demetri Catrakilis.

However, the quality of WP's attacking play, both in terms of execution and option-taking, was unforgivably poor. They had multiple chances to put this Cheetahs side away, and their failure to convert scoring opportunities so nearly cost them victory.

WP simply never adapted to the wet and windy conditions. The hosts turned down several opportunities to kick for goal in the first half. They had Free State under pressure for long periods of play, but persisted with the ploy of kicking to the corner and setting the lineout.

Each decision to kick to touch was quickly followed by a handling error. They went to the break trailing the Cheetahs 3-0.

After conceding 57 points against the Blue Bulls last week, the Cheetahs turned in an aggressive and determined defensive showing at Newlands. They didn't enjoy a great deal of possession or territory, and their scrum was under pressure, but they still managed to keep WP tryless.

There were times when their discipline let them down. Benjamin was yellow-carded in the 34th minute, Gerhard Olivier in the 59th and Henco Venter in the 64th. Incredibly, the Cheetahs kept WP honest during those periods of disadvantage.

Province lost their skipper Juan de Jongh early in the second half to a knee injury. Dobson also made a questionable call to take Catrakilis off in the 64th minute when the game was still in the balance at 9-3. However, Catrakilis's replacement, Kurt Coleman, would make an important contribution at the death.

In the 79th minute, the Cheetahs launched a counter-attack from deep within their own 22. When Benjamin received the pass, it looked as if the veteran would score and give his side a chance of an unlikely victory.

Coleman got back and managed to ankle-tap Benjamin, a tackle-attempt that caused the latter to lose his feet. Benjamin still had the momentum to cross the tryline, but lost the ball as his body hit the ground.

The knock-on handed WP a scrum, and ultimately the win.

Western Province – Penalties: Demetri Catrakilis (3).
Free State Cheetahs – Penalty: Fred Zeilinga.

Western Province – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Juan de Jongh (c), 12 Jaco Taute, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble.
Subs: 16. Marius Fourie, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 Jan de Klerk, 19 Chris Cloete, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Kurt Coleman, 22 Kobus van Wyk, 23 Charlie van Jaarsveld.

Free State Cheetahs – 15 AJ Coertzen, 14 Clayton Blommetjies, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Neil Jordaan, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Subs: 16 Elandré Huggett, 17 Maks van Dyk, 18 Reniel Hugo, 19 Gerhard Olivier, 20 Tienie Burger, 21 Tertius Kruger, 22 Sias Ebersohn.

Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images

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