The Cardiff Blues withstood a late onslaught on their tryline by the Cheetahs to clinch a vital 25-20 PRO14 victory at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday night.
A second penalty by flyhalf Jarrod Evans just over 10 minutes before the end saw the Blues secure a much-needed four log points that moved them up to fourth in Conference A with 29, while the Cheetahs remain in third in the same group on 41.
It all started so promisingly for the visitors, with prop Ox Nche barrelling over the whitewash after a lineout drive was stopped in the fourth minute.
When Evans missed an early penalty for the Blues, it allowed the Cheetahs to turn their seven-point lead into 10 in the 14th minute when flyhalf Fred Zeilinga slotted a three-pointer.
The Bloemfontein side were well on top, with their pack of forwards winning the collisions, while they showed good intensity in defence as well.
Fullback Clayton Blommetjies also produced some classy tactical kicks to drive Cardiff back into their half.
But the Welsh outfit got back into the game in the 17th minute when centre Rey Lee-Lo forced his way over.
Cheetahs lock Rynier Bernardo was yellow-carded in the 23rd minute, and the hosts took the lead with a brilliant move at the front of the lineout soon afterwards, with loose forward Ellis Jenkins diving over as a flat-footed Cheetahs defence were flummoxed.
Evans added a penalty just before halftime, but Zeilinga responded in kind after the break, so it was anyone’s game at 15-13 to Cardiff.
The turning point came in the 53rd minute when powerful No 8 Nick Williams – who was chosen as the Man of the Match – used all his strengths to score and put some daylight between the two sides at 22-13.
The Cheetahs weren’t done yet, though. Springbok loose forward Uzair Cassiem narrowed the gap to two points by finishing from a quick tap, and suddenly the visitors were right in it again.
But they were unable to make up the deficit. Evans booted over a vital penalty with 11 minutes to go, although the Blues weren’t out of the woods yet.
The Cheetahs came close to grabbing victory on a number of occasions in the closing stages as they camped inside the Cardiff 22, but superb scramble defence by the home team saw them hold on for victory.
Cardiff Blues – Tries: Rey Lee-Lo, Ellis Jenkins, Nick Williams. Conversions: Jarrod Evans (2). Penalties: Evans (2).
Cheetahs – Tries: Ox Nche, Uzair Cassiem. Conversions: Fred Zeilinga (2). Penalties: Zeilinga (2).