DHL Western Province fought back bravely to edge the Toyota Free State Cheetahs 15-14 (halftime 10-14) in an Absa Currie Cup match at DHL Newlands on Saturday.
Skipper Deon Fourie struck the decisive blow five minutes before the final whistle as he finished off from a rolling maul in a game WP had chased up to that point.
The Cheetahs scored all their points inside the first 15 minutes through converted tries by flyhalf Elgar Watts and right wing Riaan Smit.
It gave them a 14-0 lead and the only positive WP could take from that was that there was plenty of time in which to catch the visitors.
Watts showed great awareness for his try, slipping through a gap between front-rowers Steven Kitshoff and Scarra Ntubeni before beating fullback Gio Aplon on his way to the tryline.
Smit’s try came as WP set about fighting back from the early blow. They had an overlap that provided them with a golden opportunity to level matters, but flyhalf Gary van Aswegen’s pass was intercepted by Smit.
It was akin to a 14-point swing.
However, WP dug deep and Van Aswegen struck a penalty before a try by lock Michael Rhodes brought them within striking distance.
Rhodes latched on to a loose ball after the Cheetahs had made a mess of a lineout, and he sped away for the try, which was expertly converted by Van Aswegen.
Both sides struggled in the lineouts, but WP bossed the scrums by a considerable margin and it played a big role in Free State’s demise.
The Cape side turned the screws relentlessly in the second half, dominating territory and possession. Eventually the pressure took its toll as the Cheetahs didn’t have anything left in them to defend the rolling maul.
Province launched a lengthy maul and kicked the ball out within five metres of the goalline after the Cheetahs were penalised. They set the maul again and finished through Fourie.
There was a final flurry by the Cheetahs, but it amounted to nothing and WP held on for what was an important victory after the previous weekend’s disappointing 24-all draw against the Vodacom Blue Bulls.
DHL Western Province: Tries: Michael Rhodes, Deon Fourie. Conversion: Gary van Aswegen. Penalty: Van Aswegen.
Free State Cheetahs: Tries: Elgar Watts, Riaan Smit. Conversions: Smit (2).