The Toyota Cheetahs continued their impressive run on tour as they scraped home 27-26 against the Waratahs thanks to two excellent tries by winger Raymond Rhule in their Vodacom Super Rugby match in Sydney on Friday.
Rhule’s brace helped the Cheetahs score their second win on this tour, and their third consecutive victory over the Waratahs in as many years as the Bloemfontein team started and finished well to leave the Waratahs truly in tatters in round five of the tournament.
It was the winger’s try in the 70th minute of the game that sealed the victory for the Cheetahs and turned the game around as the Waratahs looked as if they were cruising to a victory after taking the lead at the break.
Two of the team’s three tries came after the Tahs were caught by deft chips by Rhule’s back three partner Willie le Roux, as the other winger chipped and collected, leaving the Tahs defence in tatters.
The telling blow, as Le Roux chipped to put the team on the front foot, came from the recycle when Rhule ran a beautiful line off the scrumhalf to leave the defence flat-footed and go over untouched.
But it was almost not to be as the Cheetahs scored two excellent tries early to take the lead, but then watched as the Tahs made inroads and tested their shaky defence, taking the lead before halftime.
It wasn’t even a minute into the game when Le Roux launched his first chip, collecting and spinning the ball to Robert Ebersohn on the outside in one quick movement, leaving the midfielder to run 50 metres in untouched and shock the 12 000-strong crowd.
The Tahs pulled back with two penalties from Brendan McKibbon, but were once again rattled as the Cheetahs surged forward and the ball was looped out wide to Rhule, who danced his way inside before slamming the ball over the line despite a good tackle by Adam Ashley-Cooper.
The Cheetahs took their foot off the pedal a bit, and their defence showed cracks as the Tahs gained more confidence, with Peter Betham going close once after beating several defenders before he broke Heinrich Brussow’s tackle to run in under the posts and narrow the deficit.
With the halftime whistle waiting, it was Ashley-Cooper who scored, and although he turned and placed the ball immediately when tackled by Trevor Nyakane, there is still some doubt after Paddy Ryan ran an obstructing line into Nyakane before the tackle was executed. Television referee George Ayoub ruled differently though and gave the home side the confirmation of a 20-17 halftime lead.
With the second half starting, the Tahs had several chances to extend their lead but some stern defence, coupled with some poor handling errors on their part cost them, allowing Johan Goosen to sneak the Cheetahs back level with his boot.
McKibbon added another penalty to sneak them into the lead and it seemed destined that they would hold out, only for Le Roux and Rhule to come up with a bit of magic that turned the game.
The Tahs tried their best, but other than a penalty to bring them within a point, the writing was on the wall.
Their solitary win in the competition is all they have after four games at the moment, and things are not looking good for new coach Michael Cheika.
The Cheetahs march on confidently, looking for a third win next week against the Force in Perth while the Waratahs will face the Blues.
Waratahs – Tries: Peter Betham, Adam Ashley-Cooper. Conversions: Brendan McKibbin (2). Penalties: Brendan McKibbin (3).
Cheetahs – Tries: Robert Ebersohn, Raymond Rhule (2). Conversions: Johan Goosen (3). Penalties: Johan Goosen(2).