Cheetahs rally past Tahs

GARETH DUNCAN reports on the Cheetahs’ 35-34 comeback win over the Waratahs in Bloemfontein.

The Cheetahs were set for a third consecutive defeat as the Waratahs held a healthy 34-21 lead early in the second half. However, Naka Drotske’s charges dotted down for two converted tries midway through the final 40 via WP Nel and Willie le Roux, which secured the lead and swung momentum.

The Aussie tourists had the opportunity to pip the win at the death as they had possession in the Cheetahs’ red zone. Berrick Barnes was being set up for the drop goal by his heavies up front. However, they were held up during a rolling maul and the hosts were able to boot the ball into touch from the resulting scrum – sealing an admirable comeback triumph.

It’s a victory that breaks a two-match losing streak, but the Cheetahs will know they’ll have to bolster their guard. Defence has been their downfall this season, and it was a major issue in the first half.

The Waratahs started the match strongly as they exposed the Cheetahs, who slipped 18 tackles before the break. They ran in two converted tries in the opening 10 minutes via Dave Dennis and Sitaleki Timani.

The Cheetahs did well to break down the deficit as they rallied in three tries of their own through Piet van Zyl, Le Roux and Adriaan Strauss, but they fell behind again, as Timani crashed over for his brace, while Rob Horne had a clear run to the chalk after some individual brilliance from Adam Ashley-Cooper.

With Brendan McKibbin adding all the extras and a penalty, the Waratahs headed into half-time with a 10-point advantage.

McKibbin slotted his second penalty soon after the restart to stretch the visitors’ buffer, but the Cheetahs hit their straps thereafter. Nel’s charge from close range and Le Roux’s chip and chase sneaked their team ahead.

The Cheetahs are notorious for losing close contests, but they showed good composure at the death to keep the Waratahs out.