Cheetahs edge Ospreys in dramatic finish
PRO14 REPORT: The Cheetahs recorded their first away with of the season, as they held on for an 18-13 win in a dramatic finish against the hapless Ospreys at The Gnoll on Saturday.
The Cheetahs, who now head into a month-long mid-season break, outscored their hosts by two tries to one to cement their place in the top three of Conference A.
Coming from behind, to take a five-point lead with five minutes remaining, the Cheetahs held off a series of powerful raids in the closing stage.
However, they held on for the win, despite being reduced to 14 men, when lock Sintu Manjezi was yellow-carded for repeatedly collapsing the maul.
The Cheetahs have their first away win to thank for Wilmar Arnoldi’s second-half winner and a surging late defensive stand.
The South Africans won their first three fixtures this season, all at home, and have been in all three of their away games so far – now they can finally tick the win box.
No doubt conscious of that need to get their campaign back on track, the Cheetahs started like a house on fire in Wales with the ball being spun wide for William Small-Smith to crash over the line.
Ospreys responded with a penalty for Luke Price, soon cancelled out by Ruan Pienaar, but found themselves 10-8 up as Ma’afu Fia proved unstoppable from two metres out.
Price missed a penalty to extend the lead and defences remained on top for the rest of the half, and after the break the pendulum continued to swing – first the way of Cheetahs and then with Ospreys camped on the opposition line.
There were 42 minutes in total between scores but it eventually came the way of the visitors, with a catch-and-drive going ten metres for Arnoldi to touch down.
Cheetahs led 15-10, soon chipped back to 15-13 as Price nailed another penalty, but on 75 minutes Tian Schoeman got the all-important three-pointer to make it 18-13.
Ospreys fought for their lives and won a succession of penalties ten metres out from the opposition line, but after losing Sintu Manjezi to the bin they finally managed to win the ball fairly at a maul and celebrated wildly.
Man of the Match – Junior Pokomela
Junior Pokomela has long been one of the Cheetahs’ leaders on the pitch and it was the same story at the Gnoll on Saturday night.
The openside was everywhere on the Welsh turf, claiming 40 metres off eight carries and winning several crucial turnovers to turn the tide.
Play of the Day
That award goes to Ospreys hooker Scott Otten, who bizarrely almost ran the length of the pitch in the first half.
Breaking from a turnover the front rower displayed an eyebrow-raising turn of pace to speed into the opposition half, chip towards the Cheetahs line and almost touch down what would have been a remarkable try.
Pens: Price 2
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Small-Smith, Arnoldi
Pens: Pienaar, Schoeman
Yellow card: Sintu Manjezi (Cheetahs, 80 – repeated infringements, collapsing maul)
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Luke Price, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Morgan Morris, 7 Olly Cracknell, 6 Dan Lydiate (captain), 5 Lloyd Ashley, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Ma’afu Fia, 2 Scott Otten, 1 Rhodri Jones
Replacements: 16 Ifan Phillips, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Gheorghe Gajion, 19 Guido Volpi, 20 Sam Cross, 21 Matthew Aubrey, 22 James Hook, 23 Kieran Williams
Cheetahs: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Craig Barry, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 11 Clayton Blommetjies, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Ruan Pienaar (captain), 8 Aidon Davis, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Chris Massyn, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Wilmar Arnoldi, 1 Boan Venter
Replacements: 16 Marnus van der Merwe 17 Reinach Venter 18 Erich de Jager 19 JP du Preez 20 Gerhard Olivier 21 Tian Meyer 22 George Whitehead 23 Chris Smith
Referee: Joy Neville (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Mike English (Wales), Oisin Quinn (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Additional reporting by @PRO14Official