Ice man Masuku nails last gasp kick to dramatically send Cheetahs into Challenge Cup playoffs

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Siya Masuku. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Siya Masuku. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

After three years of wretched luck and hardship, the Cheetahs can finally celebrate tangible progress after flyhalf Siya Masuku dramatically slotted an injury time penalty to secure a 9-6 victory over Pau in Parma and progress to the playoffs of the European Challenge Cup.

The 26-year-old flyhalf, who had endured an inconsistent day of the office in general, vividly illustrated his big match temperament by slotting a pressure cooker attempt from about 45 meters at an awkward angle after their French opponents threw away their own opportunity to progress by trying to play down the clock.

As it turned out, they illegally sealed off their breakdown, allowing the Free Staters to pounce.

For 81 minutes, this rather drab affair looked destined to prevent the central franchise from some overdue joy as both teams struggled to find any rhythm on attack and seemingly seemed content to rather out-tackle each other.

Sure, there was a playoff spot at stake, but the lack of ambition on display - particularly in Pau's case - made one wonder if a World Cup final was being contested.

It's a dubious honour in a game of this nature though the Cheetahs could lay claim to being the imaginative side, turning down several goalable opportunities to rather go for touch.

Yet their misfiring lineout and inaccuracy at maul time meant that weapon was largely nullified on its own.

Their enterprise wasn't assisted by Masuku's penchant for missing attacking kicks to touch.

Still, the Cheetahs could reflect on their typical resilience in allowing Pau virtually nothing on attack.

They also showed commendable mental strength in not capitulating when Jeandre Rudolph, who was absolutely irrepressible at the breakdowns, was sent to the sin bin for a cynical infringement shortly before half-time.

However, as the clock wound down, the Cheetahs had seemingly run out of steam and luck with the scores deadlocked on 6-all, a scoreline that would've eliminated them on points difference.

Tapiwa Mafura's awkward knock-on falling back for a kick had given Pau late field position before Rudolph snatched a crucial breakdown ball that led to a penalty for an illegal tackle on Daniel Maartens, who provided on of the few bright attacking moments with a nice break on the blinside of a second half scrum.

Masuku missed the kick to touch, allowing Pau cheap possession and the opportunity to close things out.

As it turned out, they overelaborated, allowing ice man Masuku to produce a magical moment.   

Point scorers:

Cheetahs 9 (3)

Penalties: Siya Masuku (3)

Pau (3)

Penalties: Thibault Lebaes (2)

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