The Toyota Free State Cheetahs bagged their first victory in this year's Currie Cup competition by besting GWK Griquas by 34-27 in their encounter in the Free State stadium in the City of Roses on Saturday afternoon.
The Cheetahs lost to the Pumas in Mbombela last weekend, but rectified that mistake by beating a Griquas side that came up short against a bettter attacking outfit, specially in the second half.
Both sides started well, putting each other under good pressure with some impressive attacks early on. Griquas started to look the better of the sides when they got their first points as early as the 8th minute. Centre and captain Wayne Stevens scored the visitors first try of the afternoon and full back Nico Scheepers converted after the hosts couldn't handle all the pressure.
The Cheetahs regathered and put together some useful phases of play, but none of them ending up in five pointers. Fly half Elgar Watts kicked a penalty in the 18th minute to reduce the deficit to just four points. Watts kept the hosts down in Griquas territory, but good defence by the visitors kept the Cheetahs at bay.
It was Watts that scored the first try for the hosts after some good pressure was applied by the home side. Watts jotted down in the 25th minute and also converted to put the Cheetahs ahead by three points. Scrum half Sarel Pretorius increased the hosts lead with his unconverted try to make the halftime score 15-7 in favour of the Cheetahs.
Griquas started the second half eager to make good for the mistakes they made in the first 40 minutes. The Cheetahs lost the majority of their props to injury, which resulted in uncontested scrums. They did make the most of this situation as winger Rayno Benjamin scored in the 47th minute and Watts converted to stretch the lead to 12 points for the Cheetahs.
Griquas got one back as flanker Marnus Schoeman scored shortly thereafter from a good driving maul, but replacement Marais Schmidt missed with the conversion to leave the deficit at seven points. The visitors were stuck with 14 men for ten minutes after Griquas prop Steph Roberts was yellow carded for an infringement at the driving maul.
The Cheetahs secured the victory in the 65th minute via a good try by winger Raymond Rhule. The latter rounded off after collecting a kick through and replacement fly half Willie du Plessis converted to give the hosts an unobtainable lead. Rhule scored his second of the afternoon before the end and Griquas prop Maks van Dyk also jotted down five minutes from fulltime, but it made no difference to the result.
Toyota Free State Cheetahs 34 (15): Tries: Elgar Watts, Sarel Pretorius, Rayno Benjamin, Raymond Rhule (2). Conversions: Elgar Watts (2), Willie du Plessis. Penalty: Elgar Watts.
GWK Griquas 24 (10): Tries: Wayne Stevens, Marnus Schoeman, Maks van Dyk, Ederies Arendse. Conversions: Nico Scheepers, Marais Schmidt. Penalty: Marais Schmidt