It was another disappointing weekend for South Africa’s two PRO14 teams, the Cheetahs and the Kings, with two hammerings inflicted by the Scarlets and defending champions Leinster respectively.
The Cheetahs loss by 21-43 probably brings to an end any hope they may have had to still make the play-offs by finishing in the top three in Conference A.
They still have the Ospreys, Dragons and Kings to play at home to make up the six point deficit and move above the Connacht and Cardiff Blues.
On the down side, however, they have to play Leinster, the defending champions and runaway leaders of Conference B, and their own Conference A’s second placed Glasgow Warriors on their home fields in the next two weekends.
♦ The Scarlets had their bonus point for four tries after only 19 minutes on Sunday when they were 28-0 up, with some near-comical Cheetahs errors such as kicking the ball dead from a kick-off, out behind the corner flag from a penalty and breaking the defensive back-line structures, as the most obvious reasons why the match was over as a contest by then.
The home side went on to score another two tries, one converted, and a penalty after halftime, and the Cheetahs got two of their own before halftime (14-28).
However, entertaining rugby by die Cheetahs in the second half was interspersed with poor concentration and errors that made winning after their early deficit impossible.
The closest the Free State side came after that was when Gerhard Olivier scored in the 52nd minute following a lovely break by flyhalf Tian Schoeman who converted. That brought the score to 21-35 but a penalty three minutes later by Halfpenny and a try by centre Paul Asquith after one of the many Cheetahs errors sealed it in the 68th minute.
Good news for the Scarlets was the return from injury by fullback Leigh Halfpenny who showed his class after the long lay-off and should be back in the Wales squad soon.
What can one say about the Southern Kings except that they do not belong in this company?
Defending champions Leinster beat tem 59-19 in their Round 16 match on Friday night. The Kings scored three tries, conceded nine and were outplayed in every facet if the game.
The halftime score was 24-12 to the winners who had all of the possession and territory, but the champions were shocked when fly-half Bader-Werner Pretorius broke inside his own half, took the hit and sent Ulrich Beyers to race away for a converted try just after halftime.
It made the score 24-19, but then changed considerably as the home side scored another five converted tries.
The Leinster dominance was based on their general superiority. They covered 667 metres to the only 186 by the Kings who carried the ball only 25 times to Leinster’s 95. And the Eastern Cape side had to make 277 tackles. That is an average of 18 tackles per player. They did well to miss only 37 (13%).