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Cheetahs 24-26 Lions

Cheetahs (14) 24
Tries: Dumas, Du Preez, Uys Cons: Potgieter 2, Strydom Pen: Potgieter

British and Irish Lions (23) 26
Tries: Ferris, Earls Cons: Hook 2 Pens: Hook 4

By Bryn Palmer

Stephen Ferris powers away to score the Lions' first try
Stephen Ferris powers away to score his second try of the tour

The British and Irish Lions survived a severe test by the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein to cling on for the third win of their South Africa tour.

The tourists romped into an early lead with tries from Stephen Ferris and Keith Earls, converted by James Hook.

Hook also kicked four penalties but with Ferris sin-binned, Danwell Demas and Wian Du Preez scored for the hosts.

Corne Uys's intercept try from a Shane Williams pass with eight minutes left saw the Lions hanging on desperately.

They might have lost if replacement fly-half Louis Strydom's drop-goal attempt a minute from time had not sailed narrowly wide.

Indeed, if the Cheetahs had been able to match Hook's perfect goal-kicking, they would have been celebrating a famous victory.

After the opening quarter they comprehensively won the battle at the breakdown, where flanker Heinrich Brussow forced numerous turnovers and the Lions suffered for a lack of a specialist open-side.

Two weeks before the first Test in Durban, it was a worrying development for head coach Ian McGeechan and his lieutenants, all the more so after such a promising opening to the match.

Just as on Wednesday in their 74-10 destruction of the Golden Lions, the tourists got off to a flying start, racing into a 20-0 lead by the end of the first quarter.

Keith Earls streaks away to score the Lions' second try
Earls streaks away to score the Lions second try, which proved their last

After an early dust-up sparked by an altercation between Cheetahs prop Du Preez and his opposite number Euan Murray, Hook landed a long-range penalty in the seventh minute.

That settled the Lions and they scored their first try four minutes later, Ferris picking up a loose ball from a ruck and showing superb pace - after his 70m effort on Wednesday - to race to the line.

The second score swiftly followed, Hook hoisting a perfectly weighted chip over the Cheetahs defence that Earls claimed before swerving away from two would-be tacklers.

It was a sweet moment for the Munsterman after his error-strewn debut a week ago, and Hook converted both tries and added another penalty to make it 20-0.

With the Lions scrum dominant throughout, the stage seemed set for another rout, but a strong run from Cheetahs scrum-half Tewis de Bruyn in the 22nd minute brought a turnaround in fortunes.

Ferris got back to make the tackle, but was sin-binned for staying on the wrong side.

In the 10 minutes the Northern Irishman was off the field, the hosts took full advantage to score two tries and put the outcome in doubt.

First fly-half Jacques-Louis Potgieter sent dreadlocked wing Dumas over at the left corner, before Brussow forced a brilliant turnover and prop Du Preez charged over from close range.

Potgieter converted both to bring the Cheetahs to within six points before a relieving Hook penalty sent the Lions in 23-14 up at half-time.

Potgieter's early penalty on the resumption brought it back to six points, only for Hook to restore the nine-point lead with half an hour left.


That proved to be the last score for the Lions, who thereafter turned over too much ball in contact, with number eight Andy Powell guilty on several occasions.

One superb Ferris break almost sent Earls in for his second before the centre was forced into touch, while another multi-phase attack ended when Earls was turned over a metre short.

But the second half belonged to the Cheetahs, who missed two penalties - one from Potgieter, another from Strydom - before an uninspired Williams tried to force a pass and centre Uys galloped 80m for an intercept try.

Strydom's conversion made it a two-point game for the final eight minutes to give the Lions a major scare.

Centre Luke Fitzgerald hobbled off with cramp with five minutes left to give recent arrival Gordon D'Arcy his first taste of action, while the otherwise solid Lee Byrne appeared to hurt his left hand dropping a high ball in the final minute.

The Lions held on though to survive by the skin of their teeth.

Cheetahs: H Daniller; D Demas, C Uys, M Bosman, JW Jonker; J-L Potgieter, T de Bruyn; W Du Preez, A Strauss, K Calldo, N Breedt, D de Villiers, H Brussow, F Uys, H Scholtz (capt).
Replacements: R Strauss, W P Nel, F Viljoen (for Breendt, 46), K Floors (for Scholtz, 64), G Odendaal (for De Bruyn, 44), L Strydom (for Potgieter), F Juries.

Lions: Lee Byrne (Ospreys & Wales); Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues & Wales), Keith Earls (Munster & Ireland), Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster & Ireland), Shane Williams (Ospreys & Wales); James Hook (Ospreys & Wales), Harry Ellis (Leicester & England); Andrew Sheridan (Sale & England), Ross Ford (Edinburgh & Scotland), Euan Murray (Northampton & Scotland), Donncha O'Callaghan (Munster & Ireland), Paul O'Connell (Munster & Ireland - capt), Stephen Ferris (Ulster & Ireland), Joe Worsley (Wasps & England), Andy Powell (Cardiff Blues & Wales).
Replacements: Matthew Rees (Scarlets & Wales - for Ford, 62), Adam Jones (Ospreys & Wales - for Murray, 62), Nathan Hines (Perpignan & Scotland - for Worsley, 67), Gordon D'Arcy (Leinster & Ireland - for Fitzgerald, 75).
Not used: Simon Shaw (Wasps & England), Mike Blair (Edinburgh & Scotland), Ronan O'Gara (Munster & Ireland).

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England).

Attendance: 23,710

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