The Cheetahs stayed in the hunt for Currie Cup honours with a convincing 34-20 win over Western Province in Cape Town on Saturday.
The visitors were deserved winners and ran in four tries, three of which were scored inside the first 30 minutes.
WP battled from the outset and after Cheetahs fly-half Johan Goosen opened the scoring with an early penalty, the match came alive in the 12th minute when Cameron Jacobs scored after racing away from the cover defence, after the Cheetahs had won a turnover inside WP's half.
The visitors crossed for another try two minutes later when scrum-half Piet van Zyl rounded off a brilliant team effort which started from inside their own quarter.
From a lineout, Free State went on the attack and their hard running number eight Ashley Johnson fed Jacobs, who after a 30 metre run, cut infield before offloading to Van Zyl who dotted down, despite the attentions of Johann Sadie who tried to halt his progress.
The hosts seemed shelll-shocked but struck back with two penalties from Lionel Cronje.
However, the Cheetahs extended their lead when Pieter Labuschagne scored after Adriaan Strauss did well in the build-up by keeping two WP defenders busy close to the tryline. This gave the Bloemfontein-based side a 24-6 lead at the break.
WP awoke from their slumber after the restart when flanker Nick Fenton-Wells scored their first try from a rolling maul close to the Cheetahs tryline in the 46th minute.
This tactic worked for them again shortly afterwards when replacement hooker Deon Fourie dotted down in similar fashion.
With the score at 24-20, the home side went in search of the win and although they came close on numerous occassions, handling errors and ferocious defence by their opponents, prevented that.
The Cheetahs extended the gap with a well taken drop goal by replacement fly-half Sias Ebersohn and tighthead prop Coenie Oosthuizen sealed the win for his side when he barged over the line shortly before the end.
The defeat means that WP have dropped down to fourth position in the standings while the Cheetahs have moved up to third spot behind the Golden Lions and the Sharks.
For FS Cheetahs:
Tries: Jacobs, Van Zyl, Labuschagne, Oosthuizen
Con: Goosen 3, S Ebersohn
Drop goal: S Ebersohn
For Western Province:
Tries: Fenton-Wells, Fourie
Cons: Cronje 2
Pens: Cronje 2
Western Province: 15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Marcel Braché, 11 JJ Engelbrecht, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nick Koster, 7 Tertius Daniller, 6 Nick Fenton-Wells, 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Hilton Lobberts, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg (c), 1 JD Moller.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 Nizaam Carr, 19 Siya Kolisi, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Berton Klaasen, 22 Heinrich Steyl.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Rayno Benjamin, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Philip Snyman, 11 Cameron Jacobs, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Boom Prinsloo, 6 Pieter Labuschagne, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Marcel van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Francois Uys, 19 Johan Wessels, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Andries Strauss.
Referee: Stuart Berry