Craig Barry struck twice as the Cheetahs racked up their second successive home win in the PRO14 with a 28-21 victory against the Scarlets at Free State Stadium on Saturday night.
The Cheetahs saw off Edinbrugh in Round 9 and they claimed another crucial victory against Scarlets in their bid to make the Conference A play-offs. Meanwhile, the Scarlets were unable to follow up their dramatic 34-30 victory over the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth last week.
The two sides exchanged penalties inside the first seven minutes, Dan Jones bisecting the posts for the visitors while Fred Zeilinga kicked over for the Cheetahs.
The same two players came to the fore again shortly afterwards, Zeilinga and Jones successfully landing a further penalty each and in the 20th minute, the Cheetahs came close to scoring the first try of the game, only for Johnny McNicholl to superbly halt Shaun Venter as he bore down on the try-line.
Five minutes later, the hosts did manage to go over through William Small-Smith, Zeilinga booting the extras, and the Cheetahs flyhalf was at it again 10 minutes later, slotting another penalty to make it 16-6.
In a flash, the Scarlets set about chipping away at the deficit and they hit straight back, McNicholl feeding James Davies, who turned on the afterburners to escape the attentions of two orange shirts before diving over for his team’s first try of the evening.
The two teams slugged it out in the early throes of the second period, with Zeilinga missing a penalty in the 55th minute as the Scarlets remained within touching distance.
But on the hour, the hosts did lunge further in front following a moment of magic from Craig Barry, the Cheetahs man setting off on a blistering run and carving his way through the heart of the visiting defence before racing over the line, Zeilinga converting.
Almost in a flash though, the Scarlets’ Ioan Nicholas produced a stunning solo score of his own, the youngster showing a clean pair of heels to the Cheetahs back line before Jones added the extras to make it 23-18.
But with just over 10 minutes to go, Barry crossed for the second time, the hosts working through phase after phase before the Cheetahs flyer capitalised on a bouncing ball to put his side 10 points ahead.
Tom Prydie’s late penalty brought the Scarlets back to within a converted score with just four minutes of play remaining but they were unable to muster a final breakthrough as the Cheetahs claimed victory.
Tries: Small-Smith, Barry 2
Cons: Zeilinga 2
Pens: Zeilinga 3
Tries: J Davies, Nicholas
Pens: Jones 2, Prydie
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Craig Barry, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Nico Lee, 11 Makazola Mapimpi, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Junior Pokomela, 7 Rynier Bernardo, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Hugo Reniel, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten Van Jaarsveld (c), 1 Charles Marais
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Jasper Wiese, 20 Daniel Maartens, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Tertius Kruger, 23 Sibhale Maxwane
Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Steff Hughes (c), 12 Paul Asquith, 11 Ioan Nicholas, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Will Boyde, 7 James Davies, 6 Tadhg Beirne, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Lewis Rawlins, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Dylan Evans
Replacements: 16 Taylor Davies, 17 Rhys Fawcett, 18 Simon Gardiner, 19 Steven Cummins, 20 Josh Macleod, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Ioan Hughes, 23 Morgan Williams
Referee: Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Stephen Geldenhuys (South Africa), Jaco Kotze (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)