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Fourteen-man Cheetahs show grit to secure crucial bonus points

CHALLENGE CUP REPORT: The Cheetahs suffered a heartbreaking 27-28 defeat to Oyonnax in their final Challenge Cup pool match in France.

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However, they secured two crucial bonus points to secure their passage into the Round of 16.

The visitors were on course for a win, but Oyonnax scored a try in the 88th minute. It came after some brave defending from Hawies Fourie’s side.

The team from Bloemfontein had to play most of the match with 14 men after wing Munier Hartzenberg received a red card for dangerous play in the opening quarter.

They also played certain periods of the first half with 13 men after a couple of yellow cards.

The win moved the Cheetahs to third in Pool One. The Sharks, who play the Dragons on Sunday, are also in the play-offs after Saturday’s results.

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The Cheetahs applied the early pressure and they were rewarded in the ninth minute when Hartzenberg gathered the ball from a George Lourens chip kick to score the opening try of the game.

The visitors then suffered a blow in the 12th minute when wing Daniel Kasende was given a yellow card for taking out a player in the air.

However, the home side were also reduced to 14 men a few minutes later after Daniel Ikpefan was shown yellow for some cynical play on the ground.

The Cheetahs made full use of the penalty with Marnus van der Merwe finding his way to the tryline after a powerful driving maul.

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Just when things were looking up for the team from Bloemfontein, they then suffered a major blow due to their ill-discipline again

This time Hartzenberg was shown a red card for taking out a player in the air. The incident was judged to be more serious than Kasende’s offence earlier in the game.

Despite being down to 13 men, the Cheetahs extended their lead in the 23rd minute after Ruan Pienaar ran in for his team’s third try after gathering the ball from Tapiwa Mafura’s kick.

Just when the Cheetahs were enjoying having 14 men on the field again, their captain Victor Sekekete received a yellow card for his team’s repeated infringements.

With the visitors’ defence being stretched, Oyonnax eventually got their first points of the game in the 32nd minute when No.8 Loic Godener crashed over for a try.

Pienaar managed to push his team’s lead to 15 points with a penalty in the 36th minute.

However, Oyonnax had the final say in the first half with Filimo Taofifenua powering over for a try after sustained pressure inside the Cheetahs’ 22.

At half-time, it was 22-14 to the Cheetahs.

As they did in the first half, the Cheetahs opened the scoring in the second half with Marnus van der Merwe reaching the tryline again after a maul.

The Cheetahs managed to put in several try-saving plays on defence before Oyonnax eventually closed the gap in the 63rd minute when David Odiase was put into space to race away for his team’s third try.

Hawies Fourie’s side nearly made things comfortable again a few minutes later. However, after a powerful run, flank Friedle Olivier was held up over the tryline.

Pienaar also had a drop-goal attempt in the 72nd, but he hit the upright.

The Cheetahs had their hearts in their mouths moments later when Odiase went over again for another try. However, it was eventually chalked off after a knock-on was spotted earlier in the play.

The hosts were not going to lie down and they kept the pressure on the Cheetahs. With the clock eventually ticking well over the 80-minute mark, Adrien Bordenave was the hero for the home side when he crashed over for a try.

Jules Soulan had a simple conversion to secure the win.

Man of the match: Jeandré Rudolph was a powerhouse with ball in hand for most of the match while hooker Marnus van der Merwe scored two tries off driving mauls. However, the award goes to Cheetahs scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar who controlled the game nicely when his team were down to 14 men. He also scored a great try as well.

The scorers:

For Oyonnax:
Tries: Godener, Taofifenua, Odiase, Bordenave
Cons: Miotti 2, Soulan 2

For Cheetahs:
Tries: Hartzenberg, M van der Merwe 2, Pienaar
Cons: Pienaar 2
Pen: Pienaar

Red card: Munier Hartzenberg (Cheetahs, 19′ – dangerous play, taking out a player in the air)

Yellow cards: Daniel Kasende (Cheetahs, 12′ – dangerous play, tackling a player in the air); Daniel Ikpefan (Oyonnax, 16′ – cynical play, playing the ball on the ground); Victor Sekekete (Cheetahs, 30′ – repeated infringements)

Teams:

Oyonnax: 15 Maxime Salles, 14 Daniel Ikpefan, 13 Leo Treilles, 12 Lucas Mensa, 11 Joe Ravouvou, 10 Domingo Miotti, 9 Charlie Cassang (captain), 8 Loic Godener, 7 Hugo Hermet, 6 Filimo Taofifenua, 5 Hugo Fabregue, 4 Ewan Johnson, 3 Irakli Mirtskhulava, 2 Manu Leiataua, 1 Rory Sutherland.
Replacements: 16 Julien Ratajczak, 17 Adrien Bordenave, 18 Thibault Berthaud, 19 Steve Mafi, 20 Ilan El Khattabi, 21 Jules Soulan, 22 Souleymane Coulibaly, 23 David Odiase.

Cheetahs: 15 Tapiwa Mafura, 14 Daniel Kasende, 13 Evardi Boshoff, 12 Reinhardt Fortuin, 11 Munier Hartzenberg, 10 George Lourens, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Jeandré Rudolph, 7 Friedle Olivier, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Victor Sekekete (captain), 4 Rynier Bernardo, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Marnus van der Merwe, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Louis van der Westhuizen, 17 Alulutho Tshakweni, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Carl Wegner, 20 Daniel Maartens, 21 Oupa Mohoje, 22 Rewan Kruger, 23 Abner van Reenen.

Referee: Anthony Woodthorpe (England)
Assistant Referees: George Selwood (England), Ethan Glass (Switzerland)
TMO: David Rose (England)

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