Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Chiefs run over Cheetahs to go top of table

The Chiefs won their sixth consecutive match against the Cheetahs this morning. Photo / Getty Images.
The Chiefs won their sixth consecutive match against the Cheetahs this morning. Photo / Getty Images.

Another weekend, another Chiefs victory. Dave Rennie's team have continued their remarkable run of results with a 39-33 victory over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein lifting them to the top of the table.

Their excellent form - this was their sixth consecutive victory following an opening loss to the Highlanders - shows no signs of stopping, although they will face a confident Sharks team, fresh from a win over the Blues, in Durban next weekend.

The Chiefs attack was criticised last weekend for their inability to beat the Force in Perth more convincingly but early this morning they overcame one of the most difficult of South African teams and scored a bonus point too.

Prop Sona Taumalolo continued his extraordinary try-scoring run with two touchdowns to take his tally for the season to six, and both were from close quarters where he excels.

Midfielders Sonny Bill Williams and Richard Kahui chimed in by also scoring second-half tries, their first of the season, as the Chiefs showed admirable control and fitness at high altitude.

Led well again by playmaker Aaron Cruden, the Chiefs didn't panic when twice trailing by five points in the second half. With 15 minutes to go and the Cheetahs having regained their five-point cushion, the Chiefs drove from a lineout and Taumalolo did his thing once again.

"He's got a pretty good technique with the pick and go, so we use him," Chiefs co-captain Craig Clarke said afterwards.

Having equalised, Williams and Kahui sealed it. By this time the Cheetahs were chasing shadows as the Chiefs played with an enthusiasm and accuracy which will be admired throughout the competition.

"It's been great watching the Cheetahs in the last couple of weeks, they've been playing some fantastic rugby and credit to them, they really pushed us for the full 80 minutes," Cruden said.

The ability of the Chiefs to hold the ball for long periods hurt the Cheetahs, although they stayed in the game thanks to an intercept try to big No8 Ashley Johnson and the goalkicking of Sias Ebersohn and replacement Johan Goosen. The latter kicked a 57m penalty after the final hooter to earn a losing bonus point.

"There are a lot of tired bodies out there," Cheetahs captain Andries Strauss said. "We've gone eight weeks on the trot and we felt if could get through the first half and put some pressure on them in the second 40 we might get a win and the boys did well."

They didn't do well enough, though. The Chiefs led by only 10-9 at halftime, with wing Lelia Masaga dotting down, and it was the visitors who turned the pressure on to the Cheetahs after the break to earn another deserved victory.

Chiefs 39 (Sona Taumalolo 2, Richard Kahui, Lelia Masaga, Sonny Bill Williams tries; Aaron Cruden 4 cons, 2 pens) bt Cheetahs 33 (Johan Goosen, Ashley Johnson tries; Sias Ebersohn 4 pen, Goosen 3 pens, con).


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