Lineout maul ruling sinks Blues
It worked to effect last week but the Blues non-contention of a lineout maul hit them hard when conceding a penalty with two minutes to play which saw the Cheetahs claim a 25-24 win in Bloemfontein on Saturday (NZT).
The move came after the Blues had been penalised at a scrum collapse in the Cheetahs 22m area. Home first five-eighths Joe Pietersen used the wind to good effect to unleash a long kick for touch which took play to the Blues 22m area.
From the lineout tactic it was Pietersen who landed the goal that give his side the win, although that wasn't confirmed until a desperate dropped goal attempt by Blues first five-eighths Ihaia West flew just wide after the final hooter.
It was a disappointing end for the Blues, who had dominated most of the exchanges, fuelled by the superb example of skipper, No.8 and match centurion Jerome Kaino. The All Black was everywhere in a powerful display notable for great support from lock Patrick Tuipolotu, who had a strong game in all areas.
The Blues made several powerful surges in the first quarter with one Kaino, and others by Tuipulotu and flanker Brendon O'Connor.
But it was the Cheetahs who scored first after flanker Teboho Mohoje stole ball from a Blues throw-in. The ball was moved wide with fullback Willie Le Roux throwing a long ball for wing Cornal Hendricks to cut back across the tide and run through unopposed for the try in the 18th minute.
Blues driving play from lineouts proved effective and they had their reward when responding to the Cheetahs try by scoring six minutes later when flanker Luke Braid capped off a fine maul to score.
Mohoje was in the action again soon after when making a speculative kick at a fumbed Blues pass deep in his own 22m area. He led the chase for the ball but Visinia got a foot to the ball only to see it fall into open territory where wing Raymond Rhule fumbled the ball when attempting the pick-up.
Kaino broke from the resulting scrum but was ruled to have held onto the ball and the Cheetahs opted to kick to the corner for the lineout. Winning the ball, they saw first five-eighths Joe Pietersen put a kick across the goal-line where Le Roux leapt high to knock the ball down and Hendricks drove ahead, linked with centre Francois Venter who flicked the ball back to Le Roux.
He found Hendricks had regained his feet so passed inside and the big wing drove over for his second try.
Down 7-12 after 32 minutes, the Blues stormed back into Cheetahs territory from a fine break by Kaino. Moving the ball with confidence the Blues created a chance which saw Tuipolotu create the line break in midfield before finding prop Charlie Faumuina in support to score. Ihaia West landed the conversion and then looked to have capitalised on a Charles Piutau midfield break and a linking pass from Faumuina to race 40 m to score. However the TMO ruled the Faumuina transfer had been forward.
The Blues went to the break up 14-12 and having enjoyed a 63-37 percent advantage in both possession and position in the spell.
Another chance went begging after Tuipolotu broke towards the line after good work by halfback Jimmy Cowan and Piutau from a tap penalty. However, Tuipolotu's back-of-the-hand pass hit Braid's arm and the ball was lost forward over the goal-line.
That proved costly when after a chip kick ahead by Le Roux was tapped back by Braid only to fall to Le Roux who fed halfback Sarel Pretorius. He stepped through four Blues tackle attempts and capped a 40m run with the try.
The insertion of Jamison Gibson-Park for Cowan in the 62nd minute bore immediate fruit as he made a superb break to link with West. They carried play to the Cheetahs 22m line where another break by Piutau saw Faumuina carry the ball to the ruck where it was moved wide with Piutau and fullback Lolagi Visinia creating the chance for Kaino to score. West's conversion from wide out gave the Blues a 21-19 lead.
That was conceded seven minutes later when Pietersen landed a penalty goal. West then regained the lead in the 73rd minute.
Scorers: Cheetahs 25 (Cornal Hendricks 2, Sarel Pretorius tries; Joe Pietersen 2 con, 2 pen) Blues 24 (Luke Braid, Charlie Faumuina, Jerome Kaino; Ihaia West 3 con, pen). HT: 12-14