Cheetahs purring in the rain
Ken Borland
April 23, 2010
The Free State Cheetahs enjoyed the heavy rain as they beat the Golden Lions 30-20 (half-time 12-15) in their Vodacom Cup quarterfinal at the Johannesburg Stadium on Friday.

Heavy showers just after the match started ensured it was a stop-start affair between the two feline rivals, with the Cheetahs, from the hard plains of Bloemfontein, surprisingly adapting better to the wet conditions.

The Lions looked comfortable in the first half, two tries by wing Henno Mentz giving them a 12-3 lead, but they were hamstrung by ill-discipline and Cheetahs flyhalf Louis Strydom was in sublime kicking form, succeeding with five successive penalties as Free State levelled the scores three minutes into the second half.

For the next half-hour, the Lions did not see Cheetahs territory as the visitors totally dominated the second half to complete a convincing victory, their third away win of the year.

The Lions' first try came after just five minutes as Mentz evaded several tackles, making a mockery of a very foolish looking Free State defence.

Flyhalf Earl Rose converted, but Strydom kicked an 11th-minute penalty to get Free State on the board and close the gap to 7-3.

Both teams battled to control the ball in the dreadful conditions and the next points only came in the 32nd minute. An excellent scrum by the Lions, boasting two Springbok props in Heinke van der Merwe and Lawrence Sephaka, created space out wide for Mentz to scoot over for his second try to put the home side 12-3 ahead.

Referee Francois Veldsman then took a heavy toll on the Lions' ill-discipline, pulling them up three times for penalties in the last seven minutes of the first half, all of which Strydom kicked.

Rose ensured the Lions had a narrow lead at half-time when he kicked his only penalty.

The Springbok utility back had been a smooth operator in the first half, but either a rush of blood to his head, or no blood at all, led to him making two mistakes in the first nine minutes of the second half that seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Lions.

Rose first of all dropped an up-and-under, hardly a surprise in the conditions, but lock Willem Stoltz promptly flopped on the ball from an offsides position, gifting Strydom with another penalty.

Rose then tried to run the ball out of his own danger zone but his progress was halted by lock Philip Steyn and hooker Skipper Badenhorst, winning the Cheetahs a lineout just outside the 22. The Free Staters then got the rolling maul going, which was only stopped just before the tryline. The Cheetahs kept the defence guessing with a couple of forward drives before throwing the ball out wide for outside centre Philip Snyman to reach out a hand and score on the corner flag.

Strydom's conversion was wide, the only blemish for the former Lions flyhalf in a top-class kicking display in difficult conditions.

The Cheetahs also had a clear advantage in the tactical kicking game, thanks to Strydom, scrumhalf Tertius Carse and fullback George Whitehead, and the Lions' heads dropped lower and lower as they were forced to defend grimly deep inside their own territory. The momentum had totally shifted, with Os du Randt's young scrummaging pupils also beginning to get the upper hand in that tight phase.

The Lions forwards went off their feet at a ruck after a Carse up-and-under and Strydom's penalty lifted the lead to 23-15.

Cheetahs left wing Kholo Ramashala was getting cold out by the tramlines, however, before putting pressure on the Lions led to a dropped ball, which was hacked ahead, Ramashala getting to the ball first for the try and sealing the triumph.

The Lions scored a consolation try on the stroke of full time by replacement flank Johan van Deventer.


Golden Lions - Tries: Henno Mentz (2), Johan van Deventer. Conversion: Earl Rose. Penalty: Rose.

Vodacom Free State Cheetahs - Tries: Philip Snyman, Kholo Ramashala. Conversion: Louis Strydom. Penalties: Strydom (6).

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