Sunday, June 07, 2009
The Freestate Cheetahs came within inches of a famous upset victory over the British & Irish Lions on Saturday in Bloemfontein, as the relieved tourists came out on top 26-24.
The Cheetahs, who finished bottom of the table in the Super 14, went behind early but came back strong as they sniffed a famous scalp. Louis Strydoms drop kick minutes from time sailed inches wide, as did three penalty kicks from starting flyhalf Jacques Louis Potgieter.
The Lions, with a changed side from that who won 74-10 over the Golden Lions in midweek, have now won all three fixtures on tour so far. They will be concerned with the ease in which the Cheetahs came back into the match though.
James Hook knocked over four penalties and two conversions, but the side lacked the cohesion and deadly finishing that we saw during the week against their namesakes.
The Lions led 20-0 after twenty minutes, but somehow got themselves into a position to lose the match. Many questions need to be answered, particularly around the breakdown area, where Heinrich Brussouw had another excellent game.
In the end, on the scoreboard, it was job done, with the coach and management possibly getting a better idea of who theyll want lining up against the Boks in the first Test, but the fact that they werent able to kill off the game will be a concern.
"I was pleased with the victory, but considering the position we were in after 20 minutes we should have done better," admitted captain Paul OConnell.
"They did well at the breakdowns and turned over quite a bit of our ball. While we started well enough, we went to sleep at times and that allowed the Cheetahs to get the better of us."
The Lions face the powerful Sharks next, in Durban on Wednesday. Despite them missing many Springbok players, they will field a strong side and should be another stern challenge for the men wearing the famous red jersey.