Six-try Cheetahs put Blue Bulls to the sword

The Free State Cheetahs retained their unbeaten status after claiming a deserved 43-20 victory over the Blue Bulls in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

In an entertaining match, in which both sides gave the ball plenty of air, the Cheetahs' adventurous style of play was rewarded with a bonus-point as they outscored their visitors by six tries to two.

The win means the men from Bloemfontein are in joint first place at the top of the table alongside the Sharks with both sides on a 10 points from two matches.

Despite failing to claim a losing bonus point, the Blue Bulls are in joint second place with the Golden Lions and Boland although the Lions have played a game less.

The Cheetahs made the brighter start and opened the scoring in the third minute when their captain, Francois Venter, stepped past a couple of defenders before crossing for the opening try which Fred Zeilinga converted.

Three minutes later, thee Bulls struck back with a penalty from Tian Schoeman but the home side soon doubled their lead when Clayton Blommetjies scored their second try.

The full-back had an easy run-in, after gathering an offload from Raymond Rhule, who caused chaos inside the Bulls' 22after joining the Cheetahs back-line at pace.

The next 15 minutes was a war of attrition as both sides went at each other hammer and tongs in a bid to gain the ascendancy but poor decision making meant that neither side could add to their points tally during this period.

The Bulls eventually broke the deadlock when Jannes Kirsten barged over for their opening try in the 26th minute but two minutes later the Cheetahs won a turnover inside their 22 before launching a stunning counter attack.

Zeilinga offloaded to William Small-Smith who drew in a couple of defenders before passing to Retshegofaditswe Nche on the halfway line. The Cheetahs prop was in the clear but still had work to do and showed a remarkable turn of speed as he outpaced the cover defence before crashing over for his side's third try.

Zeilinga added the extras and a penalty on the stroke of half-time which meant the Cheetahs led 24-10 at the break.

The Bulls got the first points of the second half via a Schoeman penalty in the 50th minute but they had to wait until late in the second half for their next points as the Cheetahs dominated the rest of the match.

Five minutes later, Uzair Cassiem secured his side's bonus-point try after doing well to stay in touch despite the attentions of a defender close to the corner flag and when Small-Smith crossed for their fifth five-pointer on the hour-mark, the writing was on the wall for the Blue Bulls.

But despite trailing by more than 20 points, the men from Pretoria continued to attack and 10 minutes before full-time Ruan Steenkamp shrugged off three tackles before crossing for their second try which Joshua Stander converted.

Five minutes later, the Cheetahs added the final nail in the visitors coffin when Rayno Benjamin rounded off a superb team try in which the ball went through several pairs of hands in the build-up.

The scorers: 

For Free State Cheetahs:
F Venter, Blommetjies, Nche, Cassiem, Small-Smith, Benjamin
Cons: Zeilinga 4, Marais
Pen: Zeilinga

For Blue Bulls:
Kirsten, Steenkamp
Cons: Schoeman, Stander
Pens: Schoeman 2

Free State Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Ryno Benjamin, 13 Francois Venter, 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche
Replacements: 16 Jacques Du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Justin Basson, 19 Henco Venter, 20 Shaun Venter, 21 Niel Marais, 22 Maphutha Dolo

Blue Bulls: 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 Dan Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Arno Botha (c), 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Entienne Swanepoel, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Martin Dreyer, 18 Rudolph Snyman, 19 Hanro Liebenberg, 20 Andre Warner, 21 Joshua Stander, 22 Duncan Matthews

Referee: Lesego Legoete
Assistant referees: Archie Sehlako, Jaco Kotze
TMO: JJ Wagner