Cheetahs debut in PRO14 with pulsating encounter with Ulster

The Cheetahs' first taste of action in the new-look Guinness PRO14 saw them come out on the wrong end of 42-19 scoreline at the Kingspan Stadium.

The South Africans' much-anticipated debut in the competition saw the former Super Rugby franchise play out a pulsating encounter with Ulster.

However, the hosts were good value for their maximum points from the game, scoring six tries in all and seeing their bonus being racked up as early as the 32nd minute when the outstanding Charles Piutau crossed the Cheetahs line.

Les Kiss' side - with Christain Lealiifano making his debut - led 27-14 at the break thanks to tries from Tommy Bowe, Alan O'Connor, Stuart McCloskey and Piutau, with the key to the contest being the 19 points Ulster scored when the Cheetahs had Henco Venter in the bin in the 26th minute.

It proved crucial as the South Africans had already shown how dangerous they could be by scoring two early tries to lead 14-8 up until Venter's 10-minute departure.

Charles Marais of Cheetahs driving his team forward supported by his pack. Photos: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

The second half was a quieter affair, although Ulster secured the result with tries from Louis Ludik and sub Peter Nelson.

William Small-Smith badly miscued a second-minute penalty after Ulster were penalised at the breakdown, which sparked the home side into a reaction with John Cooney getting them off the mark with a seventh minute strike after Marcell Coetzee was high-tackled.

The Cheetahs then came close to getting the first try after Shaun Venter's broke and cross-kicked off a scrum only for Small-Smith to miss the bounce.

They made up for it later though when Rosco Specman ran back a high ball and put Clayton Blommetjies clear, with Small-Smith adding the conversion for the 15th minute score.

Again, Ulster responded with Bowe - playing in the centre - bursting through to score, although Cooney missed the conversion.

The frantic nature of the contest continued as Makazola Mapimpi's hack through led to the winger dotting down after sprinting past Piutau, with Small-Smith adding the extras.

Louis Ludik of Ulster is tackled by Sergeal Petersen of Cheetahs.

The South Africans now led 14-8 but, yet again, the lead quickly changed hands and five minutes later O'Connor got Ulster's third via the TMO - after flanker Henco Venter was yellow-carded - with Cooney's conversion nudging the province ahead by one point at 15-14.

The scores continued, this time for the home side, via Stuart McCloskey and Charles Piutau - both receiving a helping hand from Marcell Coetzee - who both dotted down within three minutes of each other. The Kiwi's effort bringing up the bonus point with Ulster leading 27-14 two minutes after the half hour.

Ulster were over again a minute after the restart when Jean Deysel's tackle released the ball and Piutau's soft hands saw Louis Ludik battle his way over, although Cooney could not convert.

The Cheetahs then sneaked a score when Sergeal Peterson was put clear and Ulster almost immediately responded - although replacement Peter Nelson's effort was ruled out by the TMO.

Cooney's 55th minute penalty took Ulster to 35-19 and after Johan Coetzee's high tackle on Andrew Trimble in the 63rd minute the Cheetahs were reduced to 14 again.

This time sub Nelson was the only home player to score and he converted his own 74th minute effort.


KEYWORDS: rugby

 

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