Toyota Cheetahs 33
THEY might feel that final score-line doesn’t fully reflect their contribution to this contest, but Edinburgh can have no real complaints about their five match winning run being brought to a shuddering halt here. Despite dominating the first and the third quarters, they could not generate enough quick ball to really put the Cheetahs under pressure, and when their scrum fell apart midway through the second half they ended up having to absorb wave upon wave of home pressure.
The game had been evenly poised at 14-13 just before the hour mark, but three unanswered tries during the final 20 were the inevitable consequence of playing so much rugby on the back foot.
“When we got back into the game, the Cheetah’s bench was probably just a little bit stronger than ours, so credit to them. It’s just a bit frustrating, we could have kicked on and we’ve got to learn the lessons from tonight and be better for next week, which we will be,” said head coach Richard Cockerill.
“The here and now is a bit frustrating but we’ve got to understand that this team is building something different,” he reiterated.
Edinburgh looked the far sharper outfit early on, with full-back Blair Kinghorn and centre James Johnstone particularly lively with ball in hand, but they continually coughed up possession or conceded penalties when they got close to the scoring zone.
They kicked one penalty to the corner and then lost control at the subsequent driven line-out, and then Jason Tovey missed a shot at goal after Cheetah’s blindside Paul Shoeman was guilty of not rolling away from a tackle on Luke Crosbie.
So, despite having very little possession and even less territory, it was the home team which broke the deadlock in the 27th minute, when full-back Clayton Blommetjies unpicked Edinburgh’s defence with a beautifully weighted grubber kick, for replacement wing Craig Barry to outpace Kinghorn and step inside Dougie Fife on his way to the line.
Edinburgh tried to rally but conceded a penalty for holding onto the ball at a ruck under the shadow of their opponents’ posts, and the Cheetahs capitalised. A few phases later, Blommetjies burst clear off an excellent scissors move with scrum-half Shaun Venter and took play right up to the away team’s 22, before releasing Barry on his right. Edinburgh’s frantic scramble defence managed to hunt the winger down five yards short of the line, but a quick recycle and two long passes sent Tynier Bernardo romping over in the corner.
Edinburgh regrouped during the break and came flying out the blocks at the start of the second half. They opened their account just two minutes when the Cheetah’s once again failed to roll away from the tackle and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne helped himself to an easy three points.
And it wasn’t long before Hidalgo-Clyne narrowed the gap further when the ball squirted out a scrum in front of the Cheetahs’ posts and a huge gap opened up for the scrum-half thanks to opposite number Tian Meyer darting out of position in some sort of misguided attempt to close down the Jaco van der Walt, who was making his Edinburgh debut as a replacement for Jason Tobey at stand-off.
Left wing Duhan van der Merwe, another South African making his Edinburgh debut in this match, launched a scything attack straight from the restart, and Cheetahs’ indiscipline allowed Hidalgo-Clyne to make it into a one point game with another penalty after Marais was the latest home player penalised for playing the ball on the deck.
But the visitors then ran out of gas, and with their scrum faltering badly they spent the final quarter on the back foot. After a prolonged period of pressure on their own line – which included a let-off for when Cheetah’s second-row Carl Wegner lost control of the ball as he stretched for the line – the dam finally burst when a dominant home scrum set up the easiest touch down number eight Junior Pokomela is likely to score all season.
With six minutes left on the clock, Makazole Mapimpi – the league’s current top try scorer – grabbed the bonus point for his team, after an overthrown line-out had gifted the home team possession; and Tian Meyer put the polish on the Cheetah’s victory with an injury time try.
Cheetahs: C Blommetjies; L Obi (C Barry 21), W Small-Smith, N Lee (T Kruger 78), M Mapimpi; F Zeilinga, S Venter (T Meyer 46); C Marais (O Nche 54), T van Jaarsveld (J du Toit 60), J Coetzee (T Botha 54), C Wegner, R Hugo, P Schoeman (J Wiese 78), R Bernardo (D Maartens 67), J Pokomela.
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; D Fife, J Johnstone, C Dean (J Rasolea 67), D van der Merwe; J Tovey (J van der Walt 38), S Hidalgo-Clyne (N Fowles 57); M Rizzo (R Sutherland 58), N Cochrane (C Fenton 58), M McCallum (K Bryce 58), A Bresler (C Hunter-Hill 63), F McKenzie, L Carmichael, L Crosbie (M Bradbury 57), W Mata.
Referee: Quinton Immelman (SARU)
Cheetahs: Try: Barry, Bernardo, Pokomela, Mapimpi; Con: Zelinga 3
Edinburgh: Try: Hidalgo-Clyne; Con: Hidalgo-Clyne; Pen: Hidalgo-Clyne 2.
Scoring sequence (Cheetahs first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0 (h-t) 14-3; 14-8; 14-10; 14-13; 19-13; 21-13; 26-13; 31-13; 33-13.