by Cole Martin
CARDIFF Blues ended a run of four straight defeats as they beat South African side Toyota Cheetahs 30-17 in an eventful Guinness Pro14 matchup.
Tries from Aled Summerhill and Josh Turnbull proved to be the difference in an exciting match at a soaking wet Cardiff Arms Park.
The Blues enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the early stages, and Jason Tovey excellently converted a long distance penalty to get the first three points on the board.
The hosts continued to mount pressure on Cheetahs, and some explosive pace from Harri Millard led to an opening, and the ball ended up with winger Summerhill who touched down to claim the first try of the match, but Tovey failed to add the extras from close range.
Things went from bad to worse for the visitors, as a long TMO stoppage resulted in number eight Jasper Wiese given a straight red card in the 14th minute, due to a dangerous high shoulder-tackle while entering the side of the ruck, and Tovey converted this time to stretch the lead to 11-0.
The player disadvantage didn’t seem to phase the Free Staters though, as they found a way back in to the game in the 28th minute when Ruan Pienaar surged through the Cardiff backline, and the powerful move was finished off by electric winger Rhyno Smith to score their first try of the game.
After gaining some momentum, the South African outfit stunned the Blues with a second try just moments later, Junior Pokomela claimed the ball and had the freedom of the right flank to stretch his legs, and the the flanker found ex-Scarlets winger Clayton Blommetjies who crossed the whitewash.
Both tries were converted by former Springboks scrum-half Pienaar, putting his side 14-11 ahead against all the odds.
Cheetahs lead was short-lived however, as two cheap penalties were gifted to John Mulvihill’s side moments before the interval, and both were converted by Jarrod Evans, who took over from kicking duties after Tovey was stretchered off after a hard tackle.
To rub salt into the wounds, the South African team were reduced to 13 men after Gerhard Olivier was penalised for kicking the ball from the wrong side of the ruck, and was sent to the sin-bin by referee Ben Blain.
Cardiff came out the blocks second-half and immediately made the most of a two-man advantage, some excellent side-stepping from Tovey’s replacement Willis Halaholo started a free-flowing move which ended up at the hands of lock Turnbull who touched down, and Evans kept up his impressive kicking to extend his side’s lead to 10 points.
A flurry of successful penalties followed as Pienaar and Evans both continued to show a great deal of composure for either side, and Cardiff led 30-17 to finally bring a bit of breathing space in a topsy-turvy encounter with ten minutes remaining.
The fighting spirit of Hawies Fourie’s team persisted, and some late pressure resulted in Blues’ prop Kieron Assiratti being sent to the bin just a minute after his introduction for not releasing his man, with Evans following him shortly after for a deliberate knock-down, adding to a total of four bookings.
Blues managed to withstand any late pressure from the visitors though, and ran away triumphal to claim their second win of the campaign.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Harri Millard, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Jarrod Evans, 11 Aled Summerhill, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Lloyd Williams, 1 Corey Domachowski, 2 Liam Belcher, 3 Scott Andrews, 4 Josh Turnbull, 5 Seb Davies, 6 Shane Lewis Hughes, 7 Will Boyde, 8 Nick Williams.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Bradley Thyer, 18 Kieron Assiratti, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Alun Lawrence, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Willis Halaholo, 23 Jason Harries.
Cheetahs: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Clayton Blommetjies, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Tiaan Schoeman, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 1 Luan de Bruin, 2 Joseph Dweba, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 7 Junior Pokomela, 8 Jasper Wiese.
Replacements: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Boan Venter, 20 Sias Koen, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 George Whitehead, 23 Louis Fouche.