BLUES CAN’T MATCH PACE OF CHEETAHS
CARDIFF Blues never recovered from another sluggish start as the Cheetahs celebrated their first Guinness PRO14 victory of the campaign in Bloemfontein.
John Mulvihill’s men were second best for long periods at the Toyota Stadium and struggled to cope with the pace of the dangerous home runners.
Once again, they had their chances, but after conceding two early tries - just like they did against Glasgow in Europe six days earlier - they were unable to get close to their hosts.
It was a performance the Arms Park side will be keen to forget.
They lacked a spark in the opening half, made countless errors and squandered opportunities when they arose.
With the bench making an impact, the Blues did come back into the contest in the final 15 minutes, aided by a charged-down score from replacement Samu Manoa.
But they lacked any sort of killer instinct and can have no arguments about leaving South Africa empty handed.
After the events of the Champions Cup defeat last weekend, Mulvihill would have stressed the importance of a fast start on the High Veldt, where temperatures had risen to 33 degrees on the day of the game.
But just like against Glasgow, the Blues didn’t appear to wake up until they were two tries down.
Scrum-half Shaun Venter picked up at a ruck 40 metres out to race in unopposed for the first, then flying wing Rabz Maxwane latched onto his own kick ahead for the second with barely 10 minutes on the clock.
The Blues replied with a Steve Shingler penalty and should have reduced the arrears further, but were unable to take a couple of golden opportunities.
Robinson was hauled down agonisingly short after clever work from Morgan, then two attacking line-outs malfunctioned, the second with disastrous consequences.
With two minutes left before the break, the Blues looked to be rumbling towards the home line.
However, a stray Cheetahs hand managed to dislodge the ball, it squirted into the hands of Venter, who found flying machine Maxwane on his outside.
There was only one winner after that with the speedster racing the length of the field for his seventh try of the season.
Trailing 21-3 at half-time, the Blues desperately needed to find some sort of fluency, but their display continued to be riddled with errors.
Their kick-chase was also poor, handing an open invitation to the Cheetahs’ dangerous back-field runners.
After the South Africans had a try ruled out for offside, the Blues found themselves living dangerously on their own line.
They were indebted to a Robinson turnover to prevent further damage and it appeared only a matter of time before the Cheetahs were celebrating again.
Instead, the Blues, with their scrum becoming more of an influence, grabbed a lifeline in unexpected circumstances.
Out of nowhere, replacement Samu Manoa charged down Schoeman’s attempted clearance, with the American international winning the race to the touch down.
Shingler’s conversion made it 21-10 with 15 minutes remaining, but that was as good as it got for the Welsh side.
Joseph Dweba of the Toyota Cheetahs breaks through theBlues defence