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Pau blitz Cheetahs to keep Euro dream alive

MATCH REPORT: Section Paloise kept their European dream alive by beating an uncharacteristically indisciplined Cheetahs team 33-20 in a Challenge Cup Round Three match in Amsterdam on Sunday.

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The teams scored three tries each in what was the French team’s first-ever win over the Cheetahs – having twice lost narrowly (16-21 and 6-9) last season.

More importantly, it saw Section Paloise move into fourth place in the Pool One standings, ahead of their final league match against Zebre at Stade du Hameau in Pau this coming Saturday.

Pool One is delicately poise – with the Durban-based Sharks topping the group on 12 points, followed by the Cheetahs (nine), Zebre and Section Paloise (both eight) ahead of the final round.

The desperation of the French team was obvious from the outset, as they blitzed the Cheetahs in the opening exchanges.

Section Paloise raced into a 14-0 lead in as many minutes – a period in which the Cheetahs were sloppy, at best, at the breakdown and turned over far too much possession.

That changed once they settled down into their usual routine of controlled phase-play.

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The Cheetahs also started to get set-piece dominance – especially in the scrums, where they won some timely penalties.

However, they were also their own worst enemies – giving away silly penalties through poor discipline at a crucial stage in the second half, allowing the French team to build scoreboard pressure.

Sloppy handling also let the Cheetahs down in what was a ‘home’ game for them.

However, we should not take away from the effort of a motivated Section Paloise, who played with greater control and poise.

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* To recap all the drama, CLICK HERE!

The first points went to Section Paloise’s Wallaby fullback Jack Maddocks – a well-timed grubber putting the Cheetahs defence in retreat and Maddocks followed up to dot down. Axel Desperes added the conversion for an early lead – 7-0.

That became 14-0 in a flash – the Cheetahs’ defence being exposed again and centre Emilien Gailleton went over. Desperes added the conversion.

The Cheetahs had their moment, but Munier Hartzenberg was tackled into touch in the process of attempting to ground the ball.

They slowly worked their way back into the game, starting to enjoy some territorial advantage in the second quarter.

On the half-hour mark, the Cheetahs opened their scoring – wing Munier Hartzenberg finishing off a move that started with a quick-tap penalty from veteran Springbok Ruan Pienaar. The conversion attempt was wide – 5-14.

Soon after the restart the Cheetahs were caught offside near their 22 and Desperes took the lead to 12 points – 17-5.

On the stroke of half-time Section Paloise hooker Romain Ruffenach was sent to the sin bin for a cynical foul – slapping the ball out of the scrumhalf’s hand.

The Cheetahs opted for a tap-and-go, with Jeandre Rudolph finishing off the move and Pienaar adding the conversion – 12-17, which was also the half-time score.

Section Paloise had the early play after the break, with Desperes adding a penalty in the 45th minute for an eight-point (20-12) lead.

Just short of the hour mark Section Paloise was again reduced to 14 men – Aminiasi Tuimaba was yellow-carded for a high tackle on Tapiwa Mafura.

From a powerful line-out maul, hooker Louis van der Westhuizen got an armchair ride over the line. Pienaar was wide with the conversion attempt – 17-20.

Desperes added three more points to punish the Cheetahs for their poor discipline – 23-17.

The Cheetahs’ poor discipline cost them dearly, lock Rynier Bernardo sent to the sin bin for repeatedly being offside and Desperes making it a nine-point (26-17) lead with 10 minutes remaining.

Pienaar pulled three points back with eight minutes remaining.

Five minutes from time Section Paloise scrumhalf Dan Robson sealed the deal for the French side – a weaving run exposing the Cheetahs defence once again, as he scored their third try. Replacement Thibault Debaes added the conversion – 33-20.

The Cheetahs now threw everything into getting a couple of bonus points, but their execution let them and Section Paloise held on for a vital win.

Man of the match: Louis van der Westhuizen, Friedle Olivier, Gideon van der Merwe and Jeandré Rudolph were the most productive Cheetahs players – although they also had their costly moments. Fullback Jack Maddocks and flyhalf Axel Desperes were impressive for the French team. Our award goes to Section Paloise’s England scrumhalf Dan Robson – who put on display his international experience and scored the most crucial try in the game, killing off the Cheetahs’ last hope of recording a late winner.

The scorers

For the Cheetahs
Tries: Hartzenberg, Rudolph, Van der Westhuizen
Con: Pienaar
Pen: Pienaar

For Section Paloise
Tries: Maddocks, Gailleton, Robson
Cons: Desperes 2, Debaes
Pens: Desperes 4

Yellow cards: Romain Ruffenach (Section Paloise, 39 – cynical foul, slapping the ball out of the scrumhalf’s hand), Aminiasi Tuimaba (Section Paloise, 56 – foul; play, high tackle), Rynier Bernardo (Cheetahs, 68 – repeated infringements, offside)

Teams

Cheetahs: 15 Tapiwa Mafura, 14 Munier Hartzenberg, 13 Evardi Boshoff, 12 Reinhardt Fortuin, 11 Cohen Jasper, 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 Louis van der Westhuizen, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 17 Alulutho Tshakweni, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Carl Wegner, 20 Daniel Maartens, 21 Sibabalo Qoma, 22 Rewan Kruger, 23 Ali Mgijima.

Section Paloise: 15 Jack Maddocks, 14 Thomas Carol, 13 Emilien Gailleton, 12 Nathan Decron, 11 Aminiasi Tuimaba, 10 Axel Desperes, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Reece Hewat, 7 Mehdi Tlili, 6 Martin Puech (captain), 5 Fabrice Metz, 4 Guillaume Ducat, 3 Guram Papidze, 2 Romain Ruffenach, 1 Facundo Gigena.
Replacements: 16 Lucas Rey, 17 Remi Seneca, 18 Nicolas Corato, 19 Hugo Auradou, 20 Paulo Pelesasa, 21 Thomas Souverbie, 22 Thibault Debaes, 23 Samuel Ezeala.

Referee: Hollie Davidson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Jonny Perriam (Scotland), Rob McDowell (Scotland)
TMO: Mike Adamson (Scotland)

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