A late penalty try for the Cheetahs helped the South African side to a bonus-point win over Cardiff Blues in a thrilling Bloemfontein encounter.
The Cheetahs were excellent in the first half, racing into the lead thanks to two tries from Sibhale Maxwane and one for Francois Venter, outdoing two penalties in return from Gareth Anscombe.
The Blues fires up in the second half though and led 27-22 at the 80-minute mark thanks to scores for Owen Lane, Willis Halaholo and Rey Lee-Lo.
The penalty try came eight minutes into time added on, and means the Cheetahs boost their Pro14 play-off chances and move nine points clear of the Blues.
The Welsh region got the first score on three minutes when Anscombe got the first of his two penalties.
Niel Marais levelled things up minutes later and the Cheetahs went ahead as Maxwane finished off a move out wide, holding on to Clayton Blommetjies’ pass.
Anscombe reduced the deficit but Venter extended the lead as he finished off a break made by Tian Meyer down the right.
Lane saw yellow towards the end of the half and the South African outfit made sure they capitalised as Maxwane made use of the extra man for a simple run in to the line.
At half-time the score was 22-6 but soon after the restart Lane re-entered the fray in fine style, capping off a period of pressure and good work from Matthew Morgan and Josh Navidi.
Steve Shingler converted and after a disallowed Venter try the Blues came once again, with Halaholo striking just before the hour-mark with superb footwork to beat three defenders.
Shingler once again added the conversion to cut the deficit to 22-20 and after a steal by Ellis Jenkins on the halfway line, Morgan, Alex Cuthbert and Halaholo all combined before Lee-Lo put the finishing touches on the Blues’ third try.
With the Welsh side leading 27-22 going into the final stages the heavens opened as both sides wrestled for advantage, with Blommetjies eating up vital metres for the home side.
The Bloemfontein side kicked for the corner and in the resulting defence Cuthbert received a yellow before more scrums piled the pressure on Danny Wilson’s men.
The drama was ratcheted up as a TMO call denied the Cheetahs a try – Brad Thyer also then received his marching orders to the sin-bin and with 88 minutes on the clock the penalty try was awarded after another powerful scrum from the hosts.
Tries:Maxwane 2, Venter, Penalty try
Cons: Marais 2, penalty try dies not require a conversion
For Cardiff Blues:
Tries:Lane, Halaholo, Lee-Lo
Cons: Shingler 3
Pens: Anscombe 2
Yellow cards: Clayton Blommetjies (Cheetahs, 18), Owen Lane (Cardiff Blues, 35), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues, 77), Bradley Thyer (Cardiff Blues, 85)
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Sibhale Maxwane, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Ox Nche
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Erich de Jager, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Rynier Bernardo, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Zee Mkhabela, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 AJ Coertzen
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Garyn Smith, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Owen Lane, 10 Gareth Anscombe (captain), 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Josh Navidi, 7 Olly Robinson, 6 Macauley Cook, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Seb Davies, 3 Anton Peikrishvili, 2 Kirby Myhill, 1 Rhys Gill
Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Josh Turnbull, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Steven Shingler, 23 Rey Lee-Lo
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Ben Crouse (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)