A man-of-the-match performance from No 8 Nick Williams helped steer Cardiff Blues to a 25-20 victory against the Cheetahs in a PRO14 match at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday night.
The former Auckland Blues bruiser, Williams crossed the whitewash following tries from Rey Lee-Lo and Ellis Jenkins as Cardiff moved back above Connacht into fourth place in Conference A. This was the sixth defeat of the season for the third-placed Cheetahs and five of those have come on the road.
In what was the first clash between the two sides in the PRO14, the Cheetahs made the perfect start thanks to the sheer power of Ox Nche.
The 22-year-old steamrollered through the Welsh outfit’s defence, holding off three players before rumbling across the line, with Fred Zeilinga adding the extras. But Danny Wilson would’ve been delighted with the immediate and incisive response his side made as Lee-Lo touched down.
The 30-year-old Samoan crashed over from short range after Aled Summerhill’s superb break down the right hand side.
Six minutes later the Blues were in front as the hosts capitalised on a yellow card to Cheetahs lock Rynier Bernardo – the speedy Ellis Jenkins darting across from a short-range lineout.
A Jarrod Evans penalty helped extend the Blues advantage three minutes before the break and the Blues came flying out of the blocks in the second period – a superb run from Rhun Williams carved apart the Cheetahs defence before being thwarted just before the line.
The Welsh faithful didn’t have to wait long for a breakthrough as Williams powered his way over with a trademark burst to put nine points between the sides.
The Cheetahs upped their tempo in a bid to regain the lead and were rewarded when Uzair Cassiem crossed in the 58th minute. Zeilinga’s conversion meant the Blues led 22-20 with time running out.
The next 10 minutes were a tight affair as both teams battled to gain the ascendancy but a penalty from Evans in the 70th minute was enough to secure victory for the Blues.
Tries: Lee-Lo, E Jenkins, Williams
Cons: Evans 2
Pens: Evans 2
Tries: Nche, Cassiem
Cons: Zeilinga 2
Pens: Zeilinga 2
Yellow Card: Bernardo
Cardiff Blues: 15 Rhun Williams, 14 Aled Summerhill, 13 Garyn Smith, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Owen Lane, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Macauley Cook, 5 Seb Davies, 4 George Earle, 3 Anton Peikrishvili, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Gethin Jenkins (c)
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Josh Turnbull, 20 Olly Robinson, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Dan Fish, 23 Ryan Edwards
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Craig Barry, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 Nico Lee, 11 Sibhale Maxwano, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Rynier Bernardo, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten Van Jaarsveld, 1 Ox Nche
Replacements: 16 Jacques Du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Carl Wegner, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Zee Mkhabela, 22 Niel Marais, 23 Malcolm Jaer
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant referees: Rhys Thomas (Wales), Rob Price (Wales)