Mon, Oct 29, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Cheetahs win third-straight Currie Cup

PARTY TIME IN BLOEM The Free State Cheetahs will rue their lack of discipline, as they conceded points while two players were off the field, but fought back well to win

AFP , BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA

The Free State Cheetahs scored a last-gasp 20-18 win over the Golden Lions to win their third-straight Currie Cup title in Bloemfontein, South Africa, on Saturday.

The men from central South Africa added the country's domestic rugby title to the one they secured in 2005 and then shared with the Blue Bulls last year. But they were made to fight extremely hard for their victory after trailing 6-18 midway through the second period.

The hero was again flyhalf Willem de Waal, who slotted a touchline conversion to put his side 20-18 ahead after replacement fullback Tewis de Bruyn had gone over in the left corner to level the scores.

It was a see-saw affair from the off with neither side really getting the better of the other. Numerous handling and kicking errors made it a disruptive first half with few try-scoring chances.

De Waal and the Lions' Louis Strydom swapped early penalties before the home side's flyhalf put his side ahead four minutes out from the half-time break with his second three-pointer.

But it was the men from Johannesburg, who were playing in their first final since 2002, who came out more fired-up after the change-over and they deserved their 18-6 lead after 65 minutes.

Visiting hooker Willie Wepener crashed over in the left corner after a sweeping backline move by the Lions and then it was the turn of scrumhalf Jano Vermaak to dot down behind the white wash. He collected a loose ball inside the Cheetahs' 22m area after replacement No. 10 Earl Rose had kicked an up-and-under which the home side had failed to control.

Just minutes later, Rose stepped up to slot over a 55m penalty to put his side 12 points clear.

But as has been the case all year, the Cheetahs hit back at the end with two tries to seal the win and give their 34,000 fans reason to celebrate.

First veteran center Marius Joubert was mauled over the tryline by his forwards and then, 11 minutes later, it was the turn of De Bruyn to crash over in the corner. The TV official confirmed that the fullback had beaten the tackle of the Lions' Louis Ludik to go in, but it was the conversion by De Waal which had the fans screaming.

There were only two points in it at the end, a true reflection of a thrilling finale to the South African domestic season.

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