Four tries from winger Raymond Rhule helped the Free State Cheetahs to an impressive 52-21 victory over Griquas.
Griquas knew that defeat would curtail their hopes of automatic survival in the top flight and unfortunately for them victory did not materialise, meaning they will play-off against the Pumas in the coming weeks. The Cheetahs meanwhile are sitting in third ahead of their final fixture, against the Blue Bulls.
The match was played in sweltering conditions and it was the visitors who came out of the blocks with intent, Elgar Watts slotting a third minute penalty.
Watts was off-target though in the eighth minute after loosehead prop Schalk van der Merwe's try, which came from a line-out mistake from Griquas close to their own try-line. Van der Merwe was the man on hand to pounce as he crashed over from five metres out, with the home side struggling to enjoy any territory.
8-0 became 11-0 ten minutes later as Griquas infringed at a breakdown before three more points were added after Nico Pretorius was penalised at scrum-time.
The half would not be all doom and gloom for the home side as they finished strongly three minutes from the break, with a great score lifting their morale. The try came from turnover ball on halfway and led to Dalton Davis and Richard Lawson exchanging a one-two down the right wing before the lock finished off. Gouws Prinsloo's conversion made it 7-14 at the break. That score was a boost to the hopes of both team and fans in their final home game of the season.
Free State Cheetahs returned from the interval in impressive fashion with Robert Ebersohn and Johann Sadie showing their class in midfield. Territory was again tipping the scales in favour of the visiting team and they were rewarded for their dominance in the 55th minutes via Watts' solid boot.
Victory was sealed three minutes later when Rhule strolled over from close range after Sadie's excellent offload before the conversion made it 24-7.
Piet van Zyl then got in on the act in the 63rd minute as he was put over by Ebersohn, who selflessly offloaded despite having the try-line in his sights. Watts made it 31-7 but the Cheetahs weren't done on the scoring chart and promptly picked up the bonus point when Rhule dived over as they hit 38 points.
Griquas showed a great deal of heart during the closing stages when replacement lock Rory Arnold crashed over for their second try, before his engine room partner Jaco Nepgen brought his side up to 21 points. However, Rhule was not finished as he went over for two more simple run-ins that pulled the Cheetahs past 50 points.
Tries: Davis, Arnold, Negpen
Con: Prinsloo 3
For Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Van der Merwe, Rhule 4, Van Zyl
Con: Watts 2, Du Plessis 3
Pen: Watts 4
Griquas: 15 Gouws Prinsloo, 14 Richard Lawson, 13 JP Nel, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Rocco Jansen, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Marnus Hugo, 8 Leon Karemaker, 7 RJ Liebenberg, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Jaco Nepgen, 4 Dalton Davis, 3 Nico Pretorius, 2 Ryno Barnes (captain), 1 Steph Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dobson, 17 Brummer Badenhorst, 18 Rory Arnold, 19 Patrick O'Brien, 20 Jacques Coetzee, 21 Du Randt Gerber, 22 Jean Stemmet.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Piet Lindeque, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Boom Prinsloo (capt), 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Teboho Mohoje, 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Francois Uys, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 AJ le Roux, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Philip van der Walt, 19 Freddy Ngoza, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Willie du Plessis, 22 Joubert Engelbrecht.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan