Piet van Zyl’s two tries and Elgar Watts’s goalkicking sealed the match for the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
The Cheetahs led 18 – 6 at half time, before further penalties and a late Reds try resulted in a final score of 27 – 13.
Piet van Zyl scored two tries for the Cheetahs, one an opportunistic try against the run of play, an another from a great break. This set up the Cheetahs, along with the help of Elgar Watts’ boot, for a surprising win over the Reds. Watts kicked 17 points by way of a conversion and five penalties to put the result beyond doubt.
The Reds looked the better of the two teams on attack, but failed to finish off any move. They lacked the patience that resulted in them being named champions two years ago, making elementary errors throughout the match. Will Genia was the worst of the lot, not finding touch with penalties and looked in disarray.
The Cheetahs were patient with ball in hand, an approach that worked on the night as they continued to put points on the board through penalties. Even though the Reds scored a late try to reduce the deficit to fourteen points, the match was over as a contest before that. Watts’ penalties hurt the Reds as they were never in the match, on the field or on the scoreboard.
The forward pack was the difference between the two teams, the Cheetahs dominating the set pieces and giving the backline freedom to run. The Reds might feel hard done by, having an early try ruled out by the TMO, yet another dubious decision. The try that stood at the end of the match, also referred, clearly showed a forward pass, but the TMO deemed the try to stand, so it evened out at the end. It was a terrible weekend in terms of TMO decisions, Craig Joubert referring anything and everything to the fourth ref when he could easily have made a decision on the park.
The Reds now head to Cape Town to face the returning Stormers while the Cheetahs go to Port Elizabeth to tackle the Kings.
Cheetahs: 27 (18)
Tries: Piet van Zyl (2)
Conversions: Elgar Watts (1)
Penalties: Elgar Watts (5)
Reds: 13 (6)
Tries: Ben Lucas
Conversions: Quade Cooper (1)
Penalties: Quade Cooper (2)
By Richard Ferguson