Cheetahs win at Newlands
Cape Town - Western Province were floored by a first-half try spree by the Free State Cheetahs who ran out eventual 34-20 bonus-point winners in the Currie Cup match at Newlands on Saturday evening.
Province rallied fiercely in the dying stages, but the 24-6 half-time deficit proved a touch too much, especially after replacement Sias Ebersohn snapped over a drop goal nine minutes from the end to stretch the lead to seven points.
And when desperation set in, the hosts conceded a try at the end when prop Coenie Oosthuizen barged over for a converted try.
The Cheetahs made their intentions clear at the outset as they ran at the Province defence at every opportunity.
Province's defence, considered among the best in the competition, were tested relentlessly in the opening half and by the time the half-time whistle sounded the visitors had run in three converted tries.
The home team initially looked like they could see off the threat but there was so much variation and pace in the visitors' attacks that it proved too difficult to contain.
Cheetahs halfbacks Johan Goosen (flyhalf) and Piet van Zyl (scrumhalf) were causing problems with sniping runs around the fringes.
After Goosen landed an eighth minute penalty, the Cheetahs backline brought off an intercept which allowed left wing Cameron Jacobs to dot down for the first try of the match. Goosen's conversion gave the visitors a 10-0 lead.
There were further woes for province three minutes later when Van Zyl rounded off a counter-attack, which the Cheetahs sprung from deep inside their 22-metre area, Goosen added the extra two points.
Province finally managed to wrest the initiative and their efforts on attack over a 10-minute period were worth at least two tries, but they couldn't finish a host of promising moves and came away with two Lionel Cronje penalties instead, closing the gap to 17-6 just on the half-hour mark.
The six-point setback was quickly absorbed by the Cheetahs and they applied sustained pressure for the rest of the stanza.
Their lone reward was a try by loosie Pieter Labuschagne and a Goosen conversion (24-6) ahead of the break.
When Province returned in the second period, they turned the match on its head with a vastly improved performance upfront and scored twice in the opening 14 minutes of second-half play.
First captain Tiaan Libenberg dived over after a rolling maul and then replacement Deon Fourie scored in similar fashion seven minutes later.
Cronje's conversion attempts were on target and the deficit was reduced to four points.
Just as the match was approaching the hour mark, however, Province suffered a massive setback when their talisman eighthman, Nick Koster, was stretchered off the field.
The hosts had enough possession to continue their ascendancy, but handling errors and poor options brought a premature end to several promising moves in the Cheetahs' 22-metre area.
The visitors retaliated with counter attacks but they seldom managed to transfer play beyond the Province 10-metre line.
Both teams had scoring chances in the latter stages, but just as the match looked to be closing at 27-20, prop Coenie Oosthuizen barged over in the final minutes and Ebersohn's conversion landed the final blow.
Tries: Nick Fenton-Wells, Deon Fourie
Conversions: Lionel Cronje (2)
Penalties: Cronje (2)
Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Cameron Jacobs, Piet van Zyl, Pieter Labuschagne, Coenie Oosthuizen
Conversions: Johan Goosen (3), Sias Ebersohn
Drop goal: Ebersohn