The University of Canberra Brumbies have fallen in Bloemfontein in a disappointing start to their South African tour, 27-21 on Sunday morning.
With nothing to lose the last-placed Cheetahs piled into the UC Brumbies from the outset, maintaining momentum and the points tally to claim a gritty win.
The UC Brumbies were not without chances and were disallowed a try to Henry Speight early in the opening minutes, but couldn’t maintain enough pressure to get a result.
It was the Cheetahs first victory over the UC Brumbies since the corresponding fixture in 2011 and the third time the two sides have been separated by less than a converted try since the start of the 2012 season.
“We didn’t have the start to the game we wanted, the Cheetahs were able to get the upper hand early and it was difficult for us to gain back any momentum,” Captain Ben Mowen said.
“Credit has to go to the Cheetahs they hustled us in defence and put us under all sorts of pressure. Penalties followed and we just couldn’t real them in.
“It’s always hard to wrestle back momentum, more so when you’re playing the Cheetahs at altitude. The Cheetahs showed plenty of enthusiasm, we just couldn’t stay with them in the end.”
Penalties ruled the roost for the first half an hour of the match, the Cheetahs making the most of their chances to lead 9-0 after a string on offences which ended up seeing Scott Fardy yellow carded.
Inside-centre, Christian Lealiifano was offered two chances to get his side on the board but both missed. Nic White took the kicking duties midway through the first half and collected almost immediately, shifting the score to 9-3.
A beautiful break down the left flank ignited the first try of the night for the UC Brumbies, again White was in the thick of it grubbering through to Robbie Coleman who was able to dive in the corner under pressure.
The kick was away, but the UC Brumbies had managed to wrestle back some momentum which eventually turned the lead in their favour on the bell with a second White penalty, 11-8.
As they did in the first half, the Cheetahs started faster than the UC Brumbies and took advantage on the scoreboard through Willie Le Roux. Le Roux found himself in space on the left flank and managed to slide through limited space to claim five points.
Just 2 minutes later it was Johan Goosen who was scoring for the Cheetahs, collecting a lovely cross field kick to register points in the opposite corner. Under pressure, the UC Brumbies worked hard to regain some momentum but clever work from players like Heinrich Brussow kept the visitors behind.
One of the highlights for the UC Brumbies was the driving maul which made plenty of metres and it was the key to getting the team back in business when Stephen Moore rumbled over from 10 metres out.
The conversion by White went over and the margin was back to 3, with five minutes to play.
But hope for a victory was snuffed out a minute later when from almost 60 Goosen slotted a field goal to turn the score in the Cheetahs favour, the final score 27-21.
Cheetahs 27( Johan Goosen, Willie Le Roux tries; Goosen con, pens 4, FG) bt UC Brumbies 21 (Robbie Coleman, Stephen Moore tries; Nic White con, pens 3) at Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein.
1. Scott Sio (replaced by JP Smith)
2. Stephen Moore
3. Ben Alexander (replaced by Ruan Smith)
4. Scott Fardy
5. Sam Carter
6. Fotu Auelua (replaced by Tom McVerry)
7. Jarrad Butler
8. Ben Mowen (c)
9. Nic White
10. Matt Toomua
11. Robbie Coleman
12. Christian Lealiifano
13. Tevita Kuridrani (replaced by Andrew Smith)
14. Henry Speight (replaced by Pat McCabe)
15. Jesse Mogg
16. Josh Mann-Rea
17. Ruan Smith
18. JP Smith
19. Leon Power
20. Tom McVerry
21. Conrad Hoffmann
22. Andrew Smith
23. Pat McCabe