In-form Cheetahs win battle of big cats

Meshack Khotha

Meshack Khotha

Free State Cheetahs retained their grip on top spot on the Absa Currie Cup log when they triumphed 27-11 over the Lions in a thrilling game at Ellis Park Stadium on Saturday.

The undefeated Bloemfontein side has romped home in all four outings in this year's domestic competition. It was the youthful Lions' first defeat at home after a good win over the Sharks last month.

The hosts had themselves to blame for throwing away valuable points because they had more scoring chances than their counterparts in the first 40 minutes.

But awful handling and mistakes at crucial stages cost them dearly. The main culprit was flyhalf Louis Strydom, who only scored two penalties out of seven attempts.

The Cheetahs shocked the Lions as early as the third minute of the first half when centre Meyer Bosman scored a try that flyhalf Willem de Waal converted (7-0).

Midway through the half Cheetahs flyhalf Falie Oelschig gave his side a 10-0 lead with a drop goal from 22m. But the Lions rebounded and put the Cheetahs under pressure with elusive runs and impressive ball control.

Ryno Benjamin turned the pressure into points and reduced the tally to 10-5 with a good try in the 26th minute. Strydom closed the gap to 10-8 with a penalty in the 34th minute and put his side ahead two minutes before the recess with a 50m penalty (11-10). Hardly two minutes from the break the Cheetahs built up a 17-11 cushion with a try from fullback Philip Burger . Substitute Kabamba Floors' try sealed victory for the log leaders.

l The Sharks maintained second spot when they beat the fifth-placed Boland Cavaliers 26-12 in Boland on Saturday.

l At Newlands, Western Province suffered their third defeat of the season when they lost 26-17 to the Bulls.