Cheetahs Challenge Cup journey starts with gutsy away win over Pau thanks to 2nd half surge

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Ruan Pienaar. (Photo by Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images)
Ruan Pienaar. (Photo by Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images)

The Cheetahs have opened their Challenge Cup journey with a 21-16 win over French club Pau.

Pau was the first team on the scoreboard thanks to a penalty from fullback Clement Mondinat that gave the home side an early 3-0 lead. 

Following that, the Cheetahs launched a sustained period of attack that resulted in a penalty of their own. Veteran scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar tied up proceedings at 3-3 as he slotted with ease. 

Mondinat slotted another penalty in the 12th minute to give Pau a 6-3 lead. The Cheetahs had a chance to even up the scores a few minutes later. Instead of opting to kick at goal, they looked for a seven-pointer but were kept out by some resolute defending from the home side. 

In the 30th minute, Mondinat extended Pau's lead to 9-3 following a scrum penalty against the Cheetahs. Soon after, the Cheetahs almost had the first try of the match, but Pienaar knocked on close to the line with the visitors on the attack. 

With half-time looming, the Cheetahs again opted to set up a lineout instead of opting for a relatively easy penalty attempt.

Pau's defence stood strong in the face of a determined driving maul, however, as the teams went into the break with the home side leading 9-3. 

All their endeavour to look for a try instead of kicking easy penalties paid off early in the second half for the Cheetahs when Daniel Maartens forced his way over the line.

Ruan Pienaar added the conversion and at 10-9, the Cheetahs led for the first time in the match. 

After Mondinat missed a penalty that would have regained the lead, Pau were back in front in the 55th minute when they opted to set up a lineout close to the Cheetahs' line and duly scored a converted try through prop Remi Seneca. 

Three minutes later, the visitors scored their second try of the match in somewhat fortuitous fashion.

After a period of several phases in which they didn't make much ground, flyhalf Siya Masuku opted for an up and under, which Pau could not control. 

The Cheetahs collected with Oupa Mohoje cruising over the try line with no Pau defenders in sight.

Pienaar couldn't add the extras, but Pau's lead was cut to 16-15 with a quarter left in the encounter. 

Pienaar's kicking radar was spot on in the 75th minute when he landed a penalty to give the Cheetahs an 18-16 lead. 

An indiscretion at the breakdown by the home side saw the Cheetahs awarded another penalty which Masuku duly slotted to secure a 21-16 win on their first foray into Europe since their PRO 14 days. 

Scorers:

Pau: 16 (9)

Try: Remi Seneca

Conversion: Thibault Daubagna

Penalties: Clement Mondinat (3)

Cheetahs: 21 (3)

Tries: Daniel Maartens, Oupa Mohoje

Conversions: Ruan Pienaar

Penalties: Ruan Pienaar (2), Siya Masuku


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