Cheetahs bag first Pro14 win
PRO14 REPORT: The Cheetahs bagged their first win in the Pro14 competition when they beat Zebre 54-39 in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
In the second ever Pro14 encounter hosted on Southern Hemisphere territory, it was Zebre who showcased more attacking prowess from the off as the travelling Italians raced into an 11-0 lead.
But the Cheetahs powered back through successive tries from Makazole Mapimpi, Luther Obi and William Small-Smith to ignite a blistering first-half.
The South African outfit turned on the heat after the break as Torsten Van Jaarsveld and Mapimpi completed doubles.
Zebre's ill-discipline saw Dave Sisi and George Biagi sin-binned, as their frustration fuelled the Cheetah's dominance.
It looked like Rory Duncan's side were destined for another defeat when Biagi crossed for Zebre's first try on South African soil following efficient support play from the forward pods.
But the Cheetahs responded almost immediately after Mapimpi stormed down the wing to cross at the other end.
Mapimpi's magic sparked the one-sided game into action, as Canna failed to make it three penalties from three.
And the hosts capitalised with the extra man, as Small-Smith ran a perfect infield line with eyes only for the tryline after a perfectly timed offload from François Venter.
Ernst Stapelberg edged the hosts in front with the conversion, before Obi plucked Francois Venter's floating pass to run in for Zebre's third try and complete a memorable first-half resurgence.
The visitors remained in touching distance as Johan Meyer charged over at the other end to pull a try back with 14 men, as Michael Bradley’s side trailed by a point at the break.
But the momentum remained with the Cheetahs after the restart, as Mapimpi latched onto Sergeal Petersen's grubber to grab the Cheetahs' fourth.
And a fifth ensued after a solid driving maul from the hosts saw Torsten Van Jaarsveld power through Zebre's rattled defensive line, with Stapelberg putting daylight between the two sides at 33-18.
But just as they had done in the first half, Zebre refused to relinquish with a man down and Mattia Bellini stormed over, with Marcelo Violi slotting his first points of the game at 33-25.
Van Jaarsveld crossed at the other end for the Cheetahs' sixth, before Faialaga Afamasaga reduced the deficit to six points with a try with Violi converting.
Tian Meyer broke clear of Zebre's defence to dive over, before Petersen joined in on the fun with his second and the Cheetahs' eighth.
Giulio Bisegni salvaged a fifth at the death for Zebre, with Guglielmo Palazzani converting, but it was not enough as the Italian side's winless run in the new season continues.
Tries: Mapimpi 2, Small-Smith, Obi, Van Jaarsveld 2, Meyer, Petersen
Cons: Stapelberg 7
Tries: Biagi, Meyer, Bellini, Afamasaga, Bisegni
Cons: Canna, Violi 2, Palazzani
Pens: Canna 2
Yellow cards: David Sisi (Zebre, 26 - foul play, dangerous charge); George Biagi (Zebre, 51 - cynical play, collapsing the maul)
Cheetahs: 15 Sergeal Petersen, 14 Luther Obi, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Ernst Stapelberg, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Junior Pokomela, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Johan Coetzee, 19 Rynier Bernardo, 20 Chris Dry, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Nico Lee, 23 Cecil Afrika.
Zebre: 15 Ciaran Gaffney, 14 Giulio Bisegni, 13 Mattia Bellini, 12 Tommaso Castello (captain), 11 Gabriele Di Giulio, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Renato Giammarioli, 7 Giovanni Licata, 6 Johan Meyer, 5 George Biagi, 4 David Sisi, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Sami Panico, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Roberto Tenga, 19 Leonard Krumov, 20 Derick Minnie, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Serafin Bordoli, 23 Faialaga Afamasaga.
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)