First-half blitz powers Cheetahs to Currie Cup crown

Rich Dore
07 September 2019

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It was a happy farewell for Toyota Cheetahs head coach Franco Smith as his side made it two Currie Cup trophies in four seasons after battling to a 31-28 victory over the Golden Lions in Bloemfontein.

Joseph Dweba, William Small-Smith, Clayton Blommetjies and Walt Steenkamp all went over for the hosts in a game where their first-half firepower simply proved too much for their spirited opponents.

It was an entertaining start to an initially open match, with hooker Dweba – a man who can’t stop scoring at the moment – peeling off the maul after 11 minutes to slide home in the corner and celebrate wildly.

But the visitors rallied, as centre Wandisile Simelane finished off a polished passing move to equalise just three minutes later.

The Cheetahs soon started to make their sustained pressure pay, however, with Small-Smith punishing the Lions for their profligacy in possession to get outside their defence and score his twelfth Currie Cup try.

And their attacking potency continued to reap rewards after a Ox Nche charge-down started a move finished by Blommetjies after some more good work by Dweba.

It was soon all but game over on the cusp of half-time, when lock Steenkamp capitalised on a loose ball from a line-out to extend their lead to 22 points and scrum-half Ruan Pienaar inflicted further damage from the tee.

The Cheetahs’ ruthlessness subsided in the second period, being thwarted by some valiant Lions defending on several occasions to keep the scoreline respectable.

The visitors were not without opportunities of their own, eventually translating their pressure into points in the final ten minutes when they made the most of Cheetahs lock Sintu Manjezi’s yellow card to reduce the deficit through Dillon Smit and a James Venter double.

But despite their admirable second-half showing and both Smit and Pienaar being sent to the sin bin in the final exchanges, it was too little too late, with the hosts holding on to give Smith the perfect ending to his glittering Cheetahs career.

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