Nico Lee crossed for three tries to save the Cheetahs from as many yellow cards in a 45-21 victory against the PRO14’s winless Kings at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday.
Justin Basson, Charles Marais and Junior Pokomela were all sin-binned during a 20-minute spell that saddled the start of the fourth quarter.
Though the Kings added 14 points during this period, Lee clinched his hat-trick and replacement hooker Jacques du Toit dotted down to quell the fightback.
In a fast-paced first half, it was the Cheetahs who were first to score through fullback Clayton Blommetjies, but the Kings responded immediately with Yaw Penxe’s searing try.
Lee and Shaun Venter then touched down before the break for the away side, and the bonus point was secured just after halftime when Lee grabbed his second.
Eital Bredenkamp got the Kings back in it and a penalty-try then threatened a comeback, but Lee incredibly struck for the third time, with the Cheetahs down to 13 men, and Jacques Du Toit added a sixth to put the result beyond doubt.
The game at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium started at frenetic pace, with Makazole Mapimpi displaying his electric speed inside five minutes, eventually leading to Blommetjies’ try – the fullback throwing a lovely dummy for the score.
But the Kings had their own tricky fullback and, two minutes later, Penxe stormed across the tryline, coming on to the ball at pace and dummying his way through a gap in the opposition defence.
Minutes later Kings prop Pieter Scholtz was penalised for not rolling away and Fred Zeilinga put the visitors 10-7 up with a straightforward kick.
The Cheetahs scored their second try at the start of the second quarter, with Lee going over from close range and Zeilinga again adding the extras.
The visitors dominated at the breakdown and kept the Kings pinned back with some excellent tactical kicking, including, surprisingly, a monster clearance from lock Reniel Hugo.
The Cheetahs’ third try came from the hands of Shaun Venter, with the halfback barging through three tackles to touch down just next to the posts on minute 32.
The home side rallied just before the break with a succession of drives almost gaining a crucial try before the interval, but after half-time Lee finished off an interception try to secure the bonus point for the Cheetahs.
The Kings were in no mood to submit though and roared back ten minutes later when a period of intense pressure saw back-row Bredenkamp touch the ball down following Schalk Ferreira’s drive.
As the hosts piled on the pressure, Cheetahs’ Charles Marais saw yellow whilst attempting to stop a drive, with the Kings registering their third try soon after with a penalty try
Cheetahs replacement Junior Pokomela also saw yellow in the act of conceding the score, leaving his side with 13 men for the final 10 minutes of the game.
But it mattered not, with the Conference A side marching downfield for Lee to complete his hat-trick from short range before Du Toit completed the scoring with the Cheetahs’ sixth try.
Tries: Penxe, Bredenkamp, penalty-try
Cons: Zono (2)
Tries: Blommetjies, Lee (3), Venter, Du Toit
Cons: Zeilinga (6)
KINGS: 15 Yaw Penxe, 14 Michael Makase, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Martin du Toit, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Oliver Zono, 9 Rowan Gouws, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Tienie Burger, 6 Eital Bredenkamp, 5 Bobby de Wee, 4 Stephan Greeff, 3 Pieter Scholtz, 2 Stephan Coetzee, 1 Schalk Ferreira (c)
Bench: 16 Michael Willemse, 17 Johan Smith, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Lindokuhle Welemu, 20 Freddy Ngoza, 21 Rudi van Rooyen, 22 Ntabeni Dukisa, 23 Harlon Klaasen
CHEETAHS: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Craig Barry, 13 Nico Lee, 12 Niel Marais, 11 Makazola Mapimpi, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld (c), 1 Ox Nche
Bench: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Johan Coetzee, 19 Rynier Bernardo, 20 Junior Pokomela, 21 Henco Venter, 22 Zee Mkhabela, 23 AJ Coertzen