Cheetahs go down in Galway
PRO14 REPORT: Connacht captain Jarrad Butler secured a 25-17 victory over Cheetahs with a late try at the Sportsground, set up by the imperious Jack Carty.
The South Africans were ahead at half-time thanks to scores from Rabs Maxwane and Louis Fouche, with Tom Farrell keeping the hosts’ hopes alive.
Andy Friend’s side went ahead after the break thanks to a score from hooker Tom McCartney, but Shaun Venter’s brilliant solo effort squared it up midway through the second half.
But four minutes from time, Carty whipped out a pass to Butler, who found himself on the wing and showed his power to shrug off his marker and cross the whitewash to seal the deal.
Tian Schoeman set up the opening try for Cheetahs with a lovely grubber behind the home defence for Maxwane to chase and pounce on, with the No.10 converting too.
Fouche added another after 20 minutes, with the typically free-flowing rugby and great hands from the South Africans exploiting the space on the outside.
But the hosts hit back not long after, pounding away at the Cheetahs defence on the line and eventually Farrell crashed through the backline and stretched to dot down.
Carty converted, his second successful kick from the tee following an earlier penalty, and suddenly there was only two points in it at the break.
Connacht showed their strength in the pack to take the lead for the first time 47 minutes in, with McCartney falling over the line off the back of a driving maul line-out.
Carty again added the extras to make it 17-10 and set up an intriguing last half an hour.
In a great back-and-forth game, Cheetahs levelled it up just over 10 minutes later as they turned over the ball and got it out to Venter, who turned on the gas and raced clear from 60 metres out to dive over.
It was a tight final 20 minutes, with Carty nudging the hosts ahead with a penalty, before a decisive score concluded matters in Galway.
As Connacht surged forward, Carty spun a brilliant pass out to Butler on the wing, who bumped the last defender and crossed to secure the win.
Tries: Farrell, McCartney, Butler
Cons: Carty 2
Pens: Carty 2
Tries: Maxwane, Fouche, S Venter
Yellow card: Nico Lee (Cheetahs, 32)
Connacht: 15 Darragh Leader, 14 Cian Kelleher, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Tom Daly, 11 Stephen Fitzgerald, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Jarrad Butler (captain), 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Eoin McKeon, 5 James Cannon, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan 17 Peter McCabe 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 Cillian Gallagher, 20 Paul Boyle, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Conor Fitzgerald, 23 Kyle Godwin.
Cheetahs: 15 Louis Fouche, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Nico Lee, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Shaun Venter (captain), 8 Gerhard Olivier, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Abongile Nonkontwana, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Jasper Wiese, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Marnus van der Merwe, 1 Charles Marais
Replacements: 16 Reinach Venter, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Walt Steenkamp, 21 Henco Venter, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Rudy Paige.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Johnny Lacey (Ireland), Mike English (Wales)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)