Planet Rugby

Cheetahs run wild Brumbies ragged

17th March 2007 16:46

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ronnie cooke

Ronnie Cooke: Putting his body on the line for the Cheetahs

The Cheetahs bounced back from three bad weeks to run a wild bunch of Brumbies ragged in Bloemfontein on Saturday, winning their Round Seven Super 14 match 38-20.

The Cheetahs, who looked to run everything at the Brumbies from the outset, scored five tries, while the Brumbies replied with three - the third of those coming after the hooter for full-time had already sounded.

This victory, which saw the Cheetahs move into sixth place on the standings, also put their play-off hopes back on the table.

The Cheetahs managed to turn around a dire opening 30 minutes performance into an entertaining display of thrilling rugby that was welcomed with raptures of applause from their home crowd.

The game stood at 0-0 for the most part of the first half only for the Cheetahs to switch on and never look back in a what was a dramatic turn of events for the Bloemfontein-based team.

Both teams were guilty of far too many errors that kept referee Paul Honiss working overtime on his whistle in the first 30 minutes.

The match failed to flow as the stop-start first half encounter was riddled with every error imaginable on a rugby pitch: knock-ons, forward passes, punts out on the full and missed kicks at goal.

However, all that managed to change for the Cheetahs later on in the match - though things stayed pretty much the same for the hapless Brumbies.

The Australians will be asking themselves how a fantastic display with the rugby ball against the Stormers last week, can turn into a nightmare of an evening seven days later.

The Cheetahs on the other hand turned three winless runs on their home track into a magnificent five-try victory that saw them bag the necessary points and get their Super 14 campaign on the road again.

Cheetahs scrum-half Falie Oelschig got the ball rolling for his side after diving over the Brumbies whitewash from a quick tap penalty in the 34th minute of the half.

The referee's whistle awarding the try must have been like an alarm going off for the half-asleep supporters in the stands. But after fly-half Willem de Waal's conversion (his first successful kick of the match), the crowd never looked like clicking the snooze button.

The Cheetahs backline certainly made sure of that with some brilliant running with ball in hand that reminded the rest of the competition just how dangerous they can be.

But the reason for the ridiculous amount of ball the backs had to play with was thanks to a phenomenal Cheetahs pack who proved that they too are not to be underestimated by any means.

In fact, the Cheetahs second try came from a quality steal in the line-out from the thieving forwards who then flung the ball wide as the Brumbies backline scampered up in defence. Centre Ronnie Cooke went into the tackle only to offload to a flying Bevan Fortuin who drew his man superbly to send wing Gavin Passens over in the corner.

De Waal kicked a beauty of a touchline conversion to put the score at 14-0 and take his team into a late half-time lead.

Brumbies coach Laurie Fisher should have taken some half-time pointers from Cheetahs boss Rassie Erasmus as the difference between the two sides after the break was astounding.

The visitors were left to do battle without their star centre and captain Stirling Mortlock, who didn't return to the field after taking some damage to his hand in the first half.

Whether Mortlock's presence would have helped or not, we'll never know as the Cheetahs started the second 40 minutes the same way they ended the first.

The home team played with more composure and confidence, but it was the Brumbies that managed to score the first points of the half.

Fly-half Julian Huxley made sure his side would get on the board by slotting a penalty kick that flew a good 40 metres after the Cheetahs were blown up for collapsing a scrum.

Any Brumbies comeback was ruled out moments later after athletic hooker Richardt Strauss stretched over to score in the left hand corner. The try was bound to come after the Cheetahs continued pressure on the Brumbies line finally took it's toll. De Waal opted to change direction that caught the defenders unaware, the fly-half passed to Cooke who again put his body on the line in the tackle before throwing the ball to Strauss who did the rest.

De Waal, who failed with all his penalty kicks in the first half, certainly made up for it with his conversions as he nailed yet another touchline kick.

The Cheetahs fourth try and bonus point came soon afterwards thanks to a try to wing and Springbok Sevens star Philip Burger, who launched himself a meter into the air to score for his team.

The five-pointer came from yet another superb line-out from the towering Cheetahs locks. Replacement forward Kabamba Floors took the ball at the base of the line-out and raced into the backline. Meyer Bosman flung the ball wide to Fortuin, who drew his man in yet again to give Burger the room to high-jump his way over the line.

Another touchline conversion sailed through the uprights off De Waal's boot and the score was 29-3 to the home team.

Adam Ashley-Cooper wasn't giving up just yet after a dazzling 50 metre dash saw the Brumbies full-back score a brilliant solo try.

Huxley wasn't as successful with his touchline conversion as his opposite number, but had more success with his second after lock Mark Chisholm backed his pace and size to bash over minutes later. It was the first time the Brumbies had managed to stretch the Cheetahs defence, and the reward paid off for them.

Cheetahs captain courageous Juan Smith scored the home team's last try of the night thanks to a dubious TMO decision.

The Bok flank had a run for the line before being taken out by Brumbies wing Clyde Rathbone. Smith however managed to stretch his long arm out to score, but the ref went upstairs to double check. After several replays, the ball looked inches short, the TMO thought otherwise and gave the thumbs up to award the try.

De Waal made it worse by kicking yet another touchline conversion - his fifth of the night.

The Brumbies had the last laugh with a try to replacement scrum-half Patrick Phibbs. The hooter had already sounded, but Phibbs went on the counterattack and showed great vision to put a chip kick ahead into no man's land. The number 9 put in a good chase to pick up and roll over the line for the consolation score.

Huxley converted to give the scoreline a little respect.

Man of the match: We were dreading this decision after the first 30 minutes of the game, but the Cheetahs second half turnaround have now made it quite a tough task indeed! The Brumbies failed to give us any headaches, though Adam Ashley-Cooper deserves some praise for that superb solo try. Centre Ronnie Cooke stood out like a lighthouse in the Cheetahs backline as he guided his team-mates into plenty of gaps. Lock Corniel van Zyl was a towering thorn in the Brumbies backside in every line-out, while hooker Richardt Strauss didn't put a foot wrong all night. However, our vote goes to Cheetahs skipper Juan Smith for yet another flawless performance in the number seven jersey. Smith has to be close to the best in his position with all the powerful runs, thunderous tackles and superb leadership he puts in every week for his team.

The scorers:

For the Cheetahs:

Tries: Oelschig, Passens, Strauss, Burger, Smith

Cons: De Waal 5

DG: De Waal

For the Brumbies:

Tries: Ashley-Cooper, Chisholm, Phibbs

Con: Huxley

Pen: Huxley

Teams:

Cheetahs: 15 Bevin Fortuin, 14 Philip Burger, 13 Ronnie Cooke, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Gavin Passens, 10 Willem de Waal, 9 Falie Oelschig, 8 Ryno van der Merwe, 7 Juan Smith (c), 6 Hendro Scholtz, 5 Corniel van Zyl, 4 Rory Duncan, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Os du Randt.

Replacements: 16 Ollie le Roux, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 Kabamba Floors, 19 Dewald Senekal, 20 Tertius Carse, 21 Herkie Kruger, 22 Marius Joubert.

Brumbies: 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 Clyde Rathbone, 13 Stirling Mortlock (c), 12 Gene Fairbanks, 11 Mark Gerrard, 10 Julian Huxley, 9 George Gregan, 8 Stephen Hoiles, 7 George Smith, 6 Julian Salvi, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 3 Guy Shepherdson, 2 Jeremy Paul, 1 Nic Henderson.

Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Salesi Ma'afu, 18 Peter Kimlin, 19 Jone Tawake, 20 Patrick Phibbs, 21 Peter Playford, 22 Francis Fainifo

Referee: Paul Honiss (New Zealand)

Touch judges: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand), Gareth Lloyd-Jones (South Africa)

Television match official: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)

Assessor: Tappe Henning (South Africa)

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