Blues hold off spirited Cheetahs

22 Mar 2014
Blues hold off spirited Cheetahs

The Blues returned to the victory trail in style with a deserved 40-30 win over the Cheetahs in Auckland on Saturday.

As the scoreline suggests, this was an entertaining affair with both sides showing a willingness to run the ball from all areas of the field.

After Simon Hickey and Johan Goosen traded early penalties, Steven Luatua got the opening try in the 16th minute when he barged over from close quarters after Peter Saili was stopped short of the whitewash in the build-up.

Shortly after that, the Cheetahs struck back when Boom Prinsloo scored their first try after the visitors got a drive going at a line-out on the Blues' five-metre line.

Prinsloo's game took a turn for the worse when he was sent to the sin bin for offside play at a ruck close to his try-line.

The Blues upped the ante and after Hickey added another penalty - after the Cheetahs were penalised for a scrum infringement - the hosts made their numerical advantage count when George Moala burrowed his way over the try-line after the groundwork was again done by Saili.

Hickey added the extras and things went from bad to worse for the Cheetahs when they conceded their third try shortly after the restart. This time Tevita Li got his name onto the scoresheet after Willie le Roux fumbled while fielding a clearance kick inside his 22.

Jackson Willison pounced on the Cheetahs' full-back's error and offloaded to Li, who dotted down. With the score at 30-13, and seven minutes left in the half, Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske made some substitutions, taking off Goosen - who sustained an arm injury - and Caylib Oosthuizen, replacing them with Elgar Watts and Trevor Nyakane respectively.

The Cheetahs showed more urgency on attack but a Watts penalty was their only reward as the Blues went into the break holding a 30-16 lead.

With Prinsloo back on the field, the Cheetahs were more competitive and after Hickey missed with a penalty attempt, 10 minutes after the restart, the game came alive in the 60th minute when Cornal Hendricks scored a superb individual try.

From a scrum, midway between the halfway line and the Blues' 22, Hendricks ran on to a skip pass from le Roux and bust through the first line of defence. He then bamboozled Charles Piutau with some deft footwork before crossing the whitewash and with Watts adding the extras the Cheetahs were back in the game, trailing by seven points.

The Blues didn't panic, however, and struck back in the 64th minute when Tony Woodcock scored after spotting a gap at a ruck on the visitors' try-line. This secured the home side's fourth try but the Cheetahs didn't lie down and struck back with another superb five-pointer.

This time Hennie Daniller rounded off a brilliant team effort started inside his half by Johann Sadie. The pacey outside centre glided through a gap in the hosts' defence and passed to Rayno Benjamin, who cut infield before offloading to Daniller who dotted down.

Watts converted and with the score at 37-30 to the home side, the Cheetahs were brimming with confidence and launched several further attacks inside the Blues' half.

The Blues weathered the storm, however, and another penalty from Hickey in the 72nd minute was enough to secure them the match points.