Cheetahs clinch courageous comeback win

GARETH DUNCAN watched the Cheetahs overcome a 32-11 deficit in the first half to down the Hurricanes 47-38 in Wellington.

It’s unlikely that you’ll see a similar attacking spectacle like the one displayed in this clash again this season. Ten tries were scored between the two teams, with the Cheetahs claiming six of them to secure a famous comeback triumph. They trailed by 21 points midway through the opening 40, but a strong finish to the first stanza saw them draw level at 32-32 at half-time. Tries from WP Nel and Coenie Oosthuizen, and Johan Goosen’s conversion and penalty was enough to seal the win as the Hurricanes could only add two Beauden Barrett penalties.

It was the Bloemfontein franchise’s fourth overseas victory in their Super Rugby history – a result that will be spoken about for years to come as it confirmed their most successful tour to Australasia.

The Cheetahs’ expansive approach laid the platform for this win. While poor ball retention and a weak cover defence cost them dearly in the first quarter, they managed to build strong momentum before the break and held on to that ascendancy in the second half.

The Hurricanes played most of the match in their own territory and were starved of quality possession, which were two key factors in their eventual downfall. Head coach Mark Hammett will lament this defeat considering his side’s wonderful start to the match.

While the Cheetahs’ smart interplay between forwards and backs saw them break easily into the Hurricanes’ half, the hosts forced several early turnovers and their continuity on the counterattack helped them score four tries in 30 minutes. After Dane Coles powered through from the kick-off, Beauden Barrett, Andre Taylor and TJ Perenara crossed the chalk as they capitalised on the visitors’ poor cover defence.

The introduction of Ashley Johnson off the bench shortly after the flurry of tries proved to be a crucial early substitution as he made a massive impact on attack and defence. Andries Strauss scored the Cheetahs’ only try in the first quarter, but Hennie Daniller, Ryno Benjamin and Oosthuizen all dotted down in a 10-minute period to level the scores at the break.

The game then tightened up in the second half. This benefitted the Cheetahs, who bossed possession and conceded less turnovers. The Hurricanes struggled in reply and the contest was over when Oosthuizen completed his brace in the final quarter.