Western Force beat Cheetahs 23-16 in Super Rugby
BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa (AP) — The Western Force kept their playoff campaign on track by beating the Cheetahs 23-16 to secure a crucial away victory in Super Rugby on Saturday.
While the Cheetahs enjoyed the majority of the attacking possession in a hard-fought game, the Force effected regular turnovers at the breakdown and counterattacked with venom.
Tries from Jayden Hayward and Nick Cummins both came from swift counterattacking moves, while flyhalf Sias Ebersohn enjoyed a perfect night with the boot as he kicked three penalties and two conversions on his return to his hometown.
The result ended a five-match losing streak for the Force in South Africa, and moved the Australian side back up to fourth on the table.
The Cheetahs hoped that Johan Goosen’s return to the starting lineup would revive their ailing season, but the injury-prone flyhalf was largely upstaged by counterpart Ebersohn, who moved overseas after failing to dislodge him.
Ebersohn’s early penalties put the Force on the front foot as Goosen missed one and landed one of his own, but it was Hayward’s try in the 24th minute which gave the visitors a crucial advantage.
A strong run by Cheetahs prop Coenie Oosthuizen in Force territory amounted to nothing when he found himself isolated, and after the Force nicked the ball, they offloaded regularly in the tackle before sending fullback Hayward over in the corner.
Ebersohn and Goosen exchanged penalties to leave the Force 16-6 ahead at halftime, and it appeared as though momentum may shift when the visitors’ captain, Matt Hodgson, was yellow-carded for intentional foul play five minutes after the break.
No. 8 Boom Prinsloo scored for the Cheetahs from a pick and go to bring the hosts within three points, but the Force pulled clear again seven minutes later when an interception earned Cummins’ fifth try of the season.
Goosen’s penalty soon after made it a seven-point game, and the Cheetahs thought they pulled level when Oosthuizen appeared to have grounded the ball on the line with nine minutes remaining.
However, the television official declared he fell short before rolling the ball onto the line, and the Force held firm in the dying minutes to record their first win on South African soil since 2011.
Force 23 (Jayden Hayward, Nick Cummins tries; Sias Ebersohn 2 conversions, 3 penalties), Cheetahs 16 (Boom Prinsloo try; Johan Goosen conversion, 3 penalties). HT: 16-6.