Two tries from wing Sampie Mastriet helped the Blues Bulls secure a vital 31-23 Currie Cup victory over a spirited Free State Cheetahs side in Bloemfontein on Friday.
The results sees the Bulls close the gap on the fourth-placed Cheetahs to just two points in the Currie Cup standings to keep their play-off hopes alive.
Looking to recover after losing to the Sharks last weekend, the Pretoria-based side came out fighting, and a try in the dying seconds of the encounter clinched victory for the visitors.
The first points of the match came from the boot of Bulls fly-half Jacque-Louis Potgieter as he slotted a penalty in the 12th minute.
Potgieter was again called into action five minutes later and kicked another penalty to stretch the Bulls lead to six points.
The Cheetahs finally got on the scoreboard shortly thereafter as fly-half Willie du Plessis kicked a penalty of his own to reduce the lead to three.
Cheetahs scrum-half Sarel Pretorius was yellow-carded for a professional foul, and the visitors cashed-in by scoring their first try.
Bulls winger Sampie Mastriet scored an unconverted try as the visitors used the extra man to their advantage.
Du Plessis kicked another penalty with Pretorius still in the bin to reduce the Bulls lead to just five points, and repeated the feat shortly after as Potgieter was also yellow carded for a professional foul.
The score remained 11-9 in favour of the Bulls as the sides went to the break.
Potgieter extended his side’s lead once more with a penalty shortly after the interval, but Du Plessis responded with a three-pointer of his own to keep the Cheetahs in the contest.
Discipline remained an issue on both sides with Bulls lock Paul Willemse also yellow carded for collapsing the Cheetahs maul. The result was a try for Cheetahs scrum-half Pretorius, which Du Plessis converted to make the score 19-14 in favour of the hosts, giving them the lead for the first time in the game.
The Bulls regained the lead as lock Grant Hattingh dotted down after some good momentum and Potgieter did the rest with his boot to give the visitors a two point lead.
Du Plessis, who had a good night with the boot, kicked a drop-goal eight minutes from full-time to give the Cheetahs a one point lead.
But Potgieter kicked a penalty and Mastriet scored his second try after the Bulls charged down another drop attempt by Du Plessis. Potgieter had the last say as he kicked the conversion.
For Free State Cheetahs:
Con: Du Plessis
Pens: Du Plessis 4
Drop: Du Plessis
Yellow cards: Pretorius
For Blue Bulls
Tries: Mastriet 2, Hattingh
Cons: Potgieter 2
Pens: Potgieter 4
Yellow cards: Potgieter, Willemse
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rayno Benjamin, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Joubert Engelbrecht, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Willie du Plessis, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Jean Cook, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Tienie Burger, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Henco Venter, 3 George Marich, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld (c), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Werner Lourens, 19 Neil Claassen, 20 Shaun Venter, 21 Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 22 JP du Plessis.
Blue Bulls: 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Jono Ross, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Deon Stegmann (c), 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Morne Mellet, 18 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 19 Wiaan Liebenberg, 20 Rudy Paige, 21Tian Schoeman, 22 Jesse Kriel.
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Referees: Lourens van der Merwe, Francois Pretorius
TMO: Willie Vos