WP win at wet Newlands
Michael Rhodes (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Western Province clawed their way to a narrow 15-14 win over the Free State Cheetahs in a lively Currie Cup match at Newlands on Saturday.
Just over 8 000 spectators warmed to the fare at a chilly Newlands, where WP left their matchwinning effort until five minutes from end, after they trailed 14-0 at one stage.
WP showed a marked improvement at the early set-pieces and kept it that way as the match wound its course.
With that advantage, they paved the way for a territorial advantage in the first-half and their overall play suggested that the Cheetahs defence would be hard-pressed to keep their defence intact.
Cheetahs flyhalf Elgar Watts provided the first-half highlight with an electrifying run from 30 metres out to score next to the posts after sidestepping three WP defenders in the sixth minute. Right-wing Riaan Smit goaled the conversion (7-0).
There was a concerted fightback by WP and when they seemed to be on the verge of a breakthrough, Smit intercepted a pass on his own 22m line and ran in for the visitors' second converted try in the 17th minute (14-0).
The slippery underfoot conditions as a result of earlier rains in the day, put paid to a few darting runs by WP wing Cheslin Kolbe, who proved a threat whenever he was in possession.
WP opened the account with a 20th minute penalty from flyhalf Gary van Aswegen, and four minutes later lock Michael Rhodes broke away from a line-out to run in for the home side's first try. Van Aswegen converted to reduce the deficit to four points (14-10).
The hosts looked full of running in the passage of play ahead of the break but they were unable to convert numerous promising opportunities. Van Aswegen also did not help his side's cause with a few grubber kicks which seemed hopelessly inopportune at the time.
It was much the same after the break when WP looked full of running, with expansive moves that tested the Cheetahs defence out wide for most of early second-half play.
Just as play neared the hour mark, Newlands had a downpour which made the surface even more slippery.
One aspect of WP’s play which seemed out of kilter was their tactical kicking, which rarely troubled the Cheetahs' rearguard. Most kicks deep into Cheetahs' territory were easily fielded, and often returned WP with interest.
Referee Jonathan Kaplan also didn't have the best of games as he missed a number of indiscretions.
After some 30 minutes of pinning the Cheetahs down in their own half in second-half play, WP were forced to go on the defence as they smothered a counter-attack down the centre of the field which took play to 20 from their tryline.
WP managed well enough on defence and staged a counter-attack of their own, to force a line-out 10 metres out from the Cheetahs’ tryline.
From the resultant set-piece, WP set up a driving maul before captain Deon Fourie crashed over for what was the matchwinning try, which went unconverted five minutes from the end.
Tries: Michael Rhodes, Deon Fourie
Conversion: Gary van Aswegen
Penalty: Van Aswegen
Free State Cheetahs
Tries: Elgar Watts, Riaan Smit
Conversions: Smit (2)