The Toyota Cheetahs succeeded in sparking a strong finish to the Guinness PRO14 season as they thumped the Dragons 38-13 in Bloemfontein on Saturday in their penultimate pool match to return to winning ways.
The Isuzu Southern Kings, meanwhile, battled to contain the Ospreys, who had their sights set on a bonus-point win to stay in the playoff race, albeit temporarily, and they delivered the goods to secure a comprehensive 43-7 victory.
The South African sides will wrap up their 2018/19 Guinness PRO14 campaign in a derby in Bloemfontein on 27 April in the final pool round.
Toyota Cheetahs down Dragons to return to winning ways
The Toyota Cheetahs, inspired by a composed performance by flyhalf Tian Schoeman, delivered a strong second-half performance against the Dragons in Bloemfontein on Saturday for a 38-13 bonus-point win, which nudged them back to winning ways.
Both teams battled to find their rhythm in the first half as penalties conceded and mistakes resulted in a scrappy opening 40 minutes, in which only one try was scored – and that was by Toyota Cheetahs’ flanker Henco Venter in the 39th minute.
The Free Staters dominated possession and territory before the break, and they worked their way within striking distance of the Dragons’ tryline on several occasions, but they struggled to come away with points. That said, the Dragons showed fantastic commitment on defence, while they did well to counter the hosts’ tactical kicking early on.
With penalties being the order of the half, the only points scored in the first 38 minutes were a penalty goal apiece by Schoeman and Aaron Wainwright. But Venter made a breakthrough for the hosts a minute before the break from a powerful pick-and-go, which pushed the Toyota Cheetahs 10-3 ahead.
The Dragons cancelled that out four minutes after play resumed as Taine Basham crashed over after a number of phases, and the successful conversion allowed them to level the scores at 10-10.
Franco Smith’s charges had a golden opportunity to force their way back into the lead minutes later, but there was more frustration for the men in orange as they lost the ball over the tryline and then saw Aranos Coetzee being sin-binned for repeated infringements in the scrums.
The Dragons took advantage of this to slot over a penalty goal, which pushed them into the lead for the first time, but this was short-lived as Shaun Venter caught the defence off-guard with a show-and-go from a maul to force his way over the chalk despite the team being a player short.
Schoeman added the team’s third try with seven minutes to play as he spotted a gap in the defence metres from the tryline and danced his way through to alleviate the pressure for a 24-13 lead.
This sparked more exciting play by the hosts as Louis Fouche earned the bonus point try before Rabz Maxwane dashed through from an intercept for his 14th try of the season and a 38-13 victory for the team.
The match was particularly rewarding for Schoeman whose try, five conversions and penalty goal earned him a rewarding 18 points.
Toyota Cheetahs 38 (10) – Tries: Henco Venter, Shaun Venter, Tian Schoeman, Louis Fouche, Rabz Maxwane. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (5). Penalty Goal: Tian Schoeman.
Dragons 13 (3) – Try: Taine Basham. Conversion: Josh Lewis. Penalty Goals: Aaron Wainwright, Josh Lewis.
Isuzu Southern Kings battle to contain in-form Ospreys
The Isuzu Southern Kings finished off their Guinness PRO14 home stretch on a disappointing note at the Madibaz Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Friday as they battled to contain the in-form Ospreys, going down 43-7.
Unfortunately for the visitors, this result was not enough to keep them in the playoff race as Connacht defeated the Cardiff Blues on Saturday to snap up the last spot up for grabs in Conference A.
The hosts played with passion in the opening exchanges, but this was not enough to keep Ospreys at bay.
The visitors broke through with back-to-back tries by Dan Evans late in the first quarter and never looked back courtesy of their fantastic support play and fine vision. This allowed Evans to earn a hat-trick and Bradley Davies a brace.
Such was the high quality of the visitors’ attack, they secured their bonus-point try by the 25th minute, with Cory Allen, Hanno Dirksen and Davies crossing the chalk after Evans to rack up five first-half tries for an encouraging 33-0 halftime lead.
In stark contrast to the Welshmen, the Isuzu Southern Kings struggled to convert a number of try-scoring chances into points due to errors at vital times. Their 14 missed tackles before the break also didn’t assist their cause.
The hosts tightened up their defence in the second half, but they were dealt a big blow 12 minutes into the second half as Stephan Greeff received a yellow card, and Osprey’s took advantage of this as Evans cut through the defence for his hat-trick.
The Isuzu Southern Kings responded well, with Michael Willemse dotting down from a rolling maul, and Masixole Banda adding the conversion.
They had opportunities to add to this, but they paid a heavy price for their mistakes, as a forward pass denied Stefan Ungerer a five-pointer, while Banda was tackled inches short of the chalk with minutes left on the clock.
Ospreys made sure they finished their tour to South Africa strongly with Davies finishing off another enterprising spell on the stroke of fulltime to take their try tally seven for the rewarding 43-7 victory.
Isuzu Southern Kings 7 (0) – Try: Michael Willemse. Conversion: Masixole Banda.
Ospreys 43 (33) – Tries: Dan Evans (3), Cory Allen, Hanno Dirksen, Bradley Davies (2). Conversions: Luke Price (4).
Other Round 20 results:
Friday, 12 April:
Benetton 28-37 Munster, Stadio Monigo, Treviso
Edinburgh 7-29 Ulster, BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Saturday, 13 April:
Connacht 29-22 Cardiff Blues, The Sportsground, Galway
Leinster 24-39 Glasgow Warriors, RDS Arena, Dublin
Scarlets 42-0 Zebre, Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli