Ireland and Scotland enjoyed successes in their World Cup warm-up matches on Saturday but the standout game was in South Africa.
CHEETAHS BITE BACK
The Toyota Cheetahs welcomed the Cell C Sharks to Bloemfontein with a place in the final of the Currie Cup the prize on offer.
As has been commonplace in Cheetahs home matches in the Guinness PRO14, it was an absorbing encounter with both teams enjoying dominant periods.
The Sharks looked in control at half-time, with a 20-11 advantage, but the Cheetahs came roaring back in the second half to run out 51-20 victors.
Junior Pokomela was the star of the show, with a try in each half, while William Small-Smith, Ruan Pienaar, Joseph Dweba, Ox Nche and Jasper Wiese also got in on the act.
The Cheetahs will now welcome the Golden Lions to Toyota Stadium in next Saturday’s final as they look to win a first Currie Cup title since 2016.
STOCKDALE DOUBLES UP
Elsewhere on Saturday in Cardiff, Ireland bounced back from defeat to England with a 22-17 victory over Wales as Ulster’s Jacob Stockdale helped himself to a double.
While the Ulster flyer was as clinical as ever, there were plenty of others who caught the eye, notably prop duo Dave Kilcoyne of Munster and Andrew Porter of Leinster, the latter succeeding the former at loosehead and both causing the home side huge problems.
Munster winger Andrew Conway was another to impress, going on one mazy run that set up Stockdale’s opening try.
The Ireland players will now be holding their breath ahead of the final World Cup squad announcement, with Joe Schmidt set to his cut his group down to 31.
PATCHELL SWOOPS IN
Warren Gatland did that on Sunday, meanwhile, with the Cardiff game clearly having an influence on his decisions.
Scarlets fly-half Rhys Patchell may have been the biggest beneficiary, coming off the bench and sparking a Welsh revival.
He scored one try, was heavily involved in another and generally got Wales on the front foot after they had struggled for fluency in the first 40 minutes.
His Scarlets colleague James Davies was another to see his name called in the final 31, earning his place in the back row thanks to performances over the last fortnight.
Elsewhere Hallam Amos edged out Owen Lane, a try-scorer on debut in Cardiff, for a wing spot, while Cory Hill made it despite still being on the recovery trail from a leg injury.
On the subject of second rows, Scotland had a pair who broke new ground on Saturday in Tbilisi in a 44-10 success.
The encounter saw Georgia host a tier one nation for the first time, and Edinburgh’s Ben Toolis and Glasgow Warriors’ Scott Cummings each grabbed a maiden Test try, with centre Rory Hutchinson getting a double.
WP Nel was also very effective in the scrum as Scotland continued to ramp up preparations before Gregor Townsend names his final squad on Tuesday.
On Friday night it was Italy who took on France in Paris with the home side running out 47-19 victors.
While it was not the ideal preparations for Conor O’Shea’s side, Zebre winger Mattia Bellini continued his rich vein of scoring form with two tries, just as he had done against Russia a fortnight ago.
Benetton fly-half Tommaso Allan celebrated his 50th cap on the day, with Italy now having one more match before the World Cup, away to England in Newcastle on Friday.
It was not just the internationals who were lacing them up this weekend, with a number of teams in pre-season action.
Edinburgh enjoyed a good workout against London Scottish, scoring nine tries in their 57-21 success as Damian Hoyland caught the eye.
The Isuzu Southern Kings, meanwhile, narrowly missed out on an international scalp for the second time in four days.
After seeing victory over Georgia slip through their fingers, it was a case of déjà-vu as Namibia scored three tries in the last ten minutes of a 28-22 loss.
Cardiff City Stadium will play host to the 2020 Guinness PRO14 Final on June 20 as one of the most exciting days in the club rugby calendar comes to Wales!
General sale tickets are available from http://bit.ly/PRO14Cardiff2020 and prices start at just £13 for concessions and £26 for adults (subject to booking fees), that’s a 15% early bird discount. Family ticket (2 adults / 2 children) prices begin at £64 and fans are encouraged to buy early to get the best value tickets.