The Cheetahs had one on their finest wins two years ago in Sydney and tonight they spoiled the party again for the Waratahs when they won a gripping contest. The Waratahs took a lead into the sheds at half time but the Cheetahs scored their third try with 11 minutes to go and held on with stern defence to win 27-26.
Things couldn’t have started worse for the Waratahs. After winger Willie le Roux got the ball in the first minute he saw not many defenders on the Tahs’ left-hand side, chipped the ball, regathered it and passed to Ebersohn, who scored. Goosen converted – 7-0 Cheetahs.
The Tahs slotted a couple of penalty goals but at 16 minutes they turned the ball over from their own scrum. The Cheetahs took the pill up the middle and, having got the attention of defenders, moved it wide, and nippy winger Ruhle went over. The visitors were taking their chances and looking slick.
After Goosen converted it was 14-6 Cheetahs. It looked like the same old slow start from the home team whereas the visitors resembled Wile E. Coyote.
To make matters worse Barnes had gone off with what looked like a broken wrist, but which Cheika said later was a dislocated thumb. Sure.
Strange though – the Waratahs started playing better. Peter Betham had already made some good runs, as had Paddy Ryan, and at 26 minutes Betham was over, under the posts. Cheetahs 14-13.
The Cheetahs were looking tired but slotted a penalty later to lead 17-13.
Then just before half-time the Waratahs turned down a penalty shot at goal. They went for a lineout drive instead and after a scrum and a few hit-ups Adam Ashley-Cooper scored near the posts.
At oranges it was 20-17 to the home team.
The Waratahs threatened to score tries after half-time but their attacks fizzled out. The teams swapped penalties and the game became an arm wrestle.
That wily le Roux had set up the Cheetahs’ first try with a well-placed chip kick and with 11 minutes to go he did it again. Once more he regathered his own kick, and set things up for Ruhle to score his second try through a gap near the ruck. After Goosen converted the visitors led 27-23.
The Waratahs made the right decision to kick a penalty to cut the Cheetahs’ lead to 27-26 with 7 minutes to go, but the Cheetahs held on – and even threatened to score a bonus point try while doing so.
It was another fine win for the Cheetahs and it meant they had won two out of three games on their tour of NZ and Australia. Another win in Perth on the way home next weekend would make it three out of four.
Sometimes the Waratahs looked like they were hitting their straps but they will regret their continued high error rate which spoiled chance after chance.
At the press conference Michael Cheika rued some of the errors made:
We’re very disappointed: making a lot of good play and then we’re just making mistakes – the ball’s getting stripped – making the same mistake over again – they chip the ball over and we’re not in position to stop that – OK one time maybe [is acceptable] but not two or three.
We’re not taking our opportunities when they come. You add up those little things and you end up in a game we really should have won, losing.
He wasn’t happy with the slowing-down tactics of the Cheetahs.
The game got really stifled [...] Every set piece the game stopped for a couple of minutes and it was pretty laughable really. [...] That went on all night; so they had a plan to stifle the flow of the game and it worked.
It would have been interesting to hear the Cheetahs’ response to that but they didn’t show at the press conference.
The Game Changer
With the Waratahs ahead 23-20 at 69 minutes the Cheetahs stormed into their half. After a Willie le Roux chip kick and regather Ruhle went through a gap near the Waratahs’ line that was unplugged, and scored.
The G&GR MOTM
The official man of the match was Paddy Ryan, and he was the best of the Waratahs because he bent the tackle line, or went through it, several times.
But the G&GR man of the match goes to Cheetahs’ winger Willie le Roux for setting up two Cheetahs’ tries with perfectly executed chip kicks.
Paddy Ryan is already a Wallaby but his stature was enhanced today.
A couple of players joined a maul of other Aussies putting their hand up for an EOYT berth. If Peter Betham, with his rampaging runs, and Israel Folau, with his composure under the high ball and general elusiveness, keep playing like that, they would have to be considered.
Referee: Garratt Williamson (NZ)
Score & Scorers
Tries: Peter Betham, Adam Ashley-Cooper
Conversions: Brendan McKibbin (2)
Penalties: McKibbin (4)
Tries: Robert Ebersohn, Raymond Ruhle (2)
Conversions: Johan Goosen (3)
Penalties: Goosen (2)
Cards & citings