The Cheetahs gained victory in the PRO14 campaign over the Italian side at the Free State Stadium on Saturday evening
The Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs gained their first victory of their PRO14 campaign with a 54-39 victory over Italian side Zebre at the Free State Stadium on Saturday evening.
Both sides headed into the clash winless after two outings, but a decent crowd, who had taken advantage of the free admission offered by the host union, were treated to a 13-try fest.
The home side out-scored the gallant Italians by eight tries to five (half-time 19-18).
The visitors were left wanting in their discipline and were twice reduced to 14 men in the match – once in either half – and on both occasions the Cheetahs made them pay.
Leading 6-0 after a pair of Carlo Canna penalties had given the visitors the early advantage, giant lock forward George Biagi crashed over in the 17th minute.
The home side hit straight back as flyer Makazole Mapimpi, who goose-stepped skillfully past the defenders, dotted down.
In a key moment in an error-strewn first stanza, the men from Parma found themselves a man down when lock forward David Sisi was yellow-carded. It didn’t take long for the Cheetahs to cash in on their numerical advantage and the hosts scored two unanswered tries during that 10-minute phase.
They found themselves strangely enough ahead for the first time in the match in the 27th minute when William Small-Smith stretched over the line from a Francois Venter lay-off.
The conversion by young flyhalf Ernest Stapelberg gave the hosts a fragile one-point lead. That stretched to an eight-point cushion moments later when Obi latched on to a pinpoint long pass from Venter.
Still a man down, Zebre struck back quickly with a try by SA-born Johan Meyer, allowing the visitors to go in at half-time with a very slender one-point deficit.
Man of the Match Mapimpi was on the scorecard for the second time five minutes into the second period, as Sergeal Petersen stabbed a deft little grubber kick through for the speedy winger to collect.
Namibian hooker Thorsten van Jaarsveld, another multiple try-scorer on the night, barrelled over from a rolling maul five metres out, which also cost the visitors a second yellow.
This time it was the lock forward Biagi who saw red for collapsing the mall.
Despite being a man down again, Zebre managed to keep within touching distance when Bellini ran in a five-pointer.
Van Jaarsveld put daylight between the two sides again when was on hand for his second try, powering his way through from another maul.
The visitors never threw the towel in and came within eight points late in the match, but Tian Meyer and Sergeal Petersen crossed the whitewash for the hosts, to ensure victory.
But it was the Italians who had the final say as winger Giulio Bisegni latched onto an inside pass to score. – ANA