A controversial try by Serge Lilo swung a closely-contested battle in the Chiefs’ favour with the visitors eventually winning 28-10 in Kimberley.
You hate to see poor officiating deciding a tight encounter, but the Cheetahs will curse the touch judge for missing a boot on the line in the build up to Lilo’s try. The score arrived at a vital period and was followed by Heinrich Brussow’s yellow card – a cynical infringement out of frustration. The Chiefs added 10 more points to finish with a score that was not reflective of proceedings.
The Chiefs attacked with purpose early on, Stephen Donald hitting the advantage line with great confidence. But handling let the visitors down, and credit must go to the remarkable defence in the wider channels. The Cheetahs, led by the bull terrier Brussow, were just as aggressive at the breakdown. Despite a wealth of territory and possession, the Chiefs only had three points to show for it.
The Cheetahs were dangerous on the counter-attack, but like the Chiefs, lacked the finishing precision. They did manage to fight their way into Chiefs territory, however, and after a rare period of sustained pressure, they had the lead. The ball shifted wide to Jongi Nokwe, who picked up his simplest try yet.
A fantastic touchline conversion by Jacques-Louis Potgieter stretched the lead, but Donald nailed an important penalty to ensure the Chiefs trailed by just 7-6 at the break. Unfortunately, the advantage was short-lived.
The intense battle loosened up in the second period, and the hosts’ defence slackened. Because of the Cheetahs’ strength at lineout time, the Chiefs took a quick throw and found the home defence scattered. Replacement hooker Hika Elliot threw an outrageous dummy which sold Meyer Bosman. At 13-7, the visitors were back in front.
Bosman redeemed himself by beating Donald to a rolling ball – the second time the Chiefs pivot failed to place the ball over the tryline. Donald ran a good line in the first half, but botched the grounding. On this occasion, Donald didn’t dive for the loose pill and a desperate Bosman beat him to it.
The game changed again after 50 minutes with the Chiefs opting to keep it close and bash it up. Again they controlled territory, but the defensive pressure forced them into errors. The Cheetahs’ loose forwards were prominent throughout with won some telling turnovers. It was their hunger at the breakdown that kept big boys like Sione Lauaki honest.
A rare opportunity in Chiefs’ territory was squandered with the Cheetahs spilling the ball inches from the tryline. Potgieter did goal a difficult penalty-attempt, but they should have claimed the lead at this critical stage of the game.
The Chiefs countered strongly, and after a promising build up, scored through Lilo. Donald goaled a great conversion and subsequent penalty with Brussow in the bin, and Mike Delany added seven of his own to inflate the scoreline.
The result is heart-breaking for the Cheetahs and disappointing for the Sharks and Bulls. A Chiefs loss would have aided the latter pair in their quest to nail down a home play-off, but thanks to an official mistake and subsequent Cheetahs’ implosion, the Chiefs will remain in the top two.
By Jon Cardinelli