Two tries in four minutes after the hour-mark swung the momentum back to the hosts after their neighbours from the Northern Cape – who got two log points from the match – were in control of the score board for most of the match.
Although they struggled in the lineouts, Tafel Lager Griquas pounced on mistakes by their opponents, managed to exploit space in the wide channels and defended very well.
The Toyota Cheetahs, who bagged a full-house of five log points, enjoyed more possession and had territorial advantage, but made a number of costly mistakes, especially in the in red zone, which gave the visitors confidence.
However, later in the game the Free Staters played with more composure and forced errors from the visitors, which allowed Conraad van Vuuren (prop) and Junior Pokomela (flanker) to score the tries that proved decisive in the end.
After a slow start, which saw the hosts score three tries to one in the first 18 minutes for a 19-10 lead, the men from the Northern Cape shifted to a higher gear.
David Brits (centre), Craig Barry (wing) and Marnus van der Merwe (hooker) – pouncing on a loose ball after a mistake by the Griqua lineout on their own line – all crossed for the Free Staters, while flyhalf George Whitehead scored all of the visitors’ points with a penalty goal and a converted try as the hosts looked to be in control after the first quarter.
But Tafel Lager Griquas hit back hard, capitalising on their neighbours’ mistakes and creating opportunities to add three more five-pointers before the break.
Chris Hollis’ try came after his team turned over possession close to their try-line and the Griqua midfielder went over soon thereafter to close the gap to four points.
The Kimberlites then had a little bit of fortune as wing James Verity-Amm – back on loan with Tafel Lager Griquas after a stint in Pretoria – intercepted inside his own half and raced away for a converted try that put the visitors in the lead for the first time in the game.
When Hanru Sirgel (flanker) sped over after making a great break in the midfield for his team’s fourth try in the 38th minute, Tafel Lager Griquas took a 10-point lead into the break.
The third quarter was like an arm wrestle, with the Toyota Cheetahs again missing out on a number of scoring opportunities.
But the final 20 minutes belonged to the hosts. After Whitehead added a penalty goal to put his side ahead by 32-19, the Cheetahs pounced twice in quick succession – Van Vuuren’s fortuitous try when he toed ahead after Griquas failed to control the restart, while Pokomela’s five-pointer came from sustained attack.
Ruan Pienaar’s tricky conversions put his side in the lead after which they set up camp in the visitors’ half to grind out the win.
Toyota Cheetahs 33 (19) – Tries: David Brits, Craig Barry, Marnus van der Merwe, Conraad van Vuuren, Junior Pokomela. Conversions: Ruan Pienaar (4).
Tafel Lager Griquas 32 (29) – Tries: George Whitehead, Chris Hollis, James Verity-Amm, Hanru Sirgel. Conversions: Whitehead (3). Penalty goals: Whitehead (2).