Cheetahs comeback in vain as Munster win in Bloemfontein

Joseph Dweba scored two tries against Munster in the PRO14, but it wasn't enough to help the Cheetahs beat their Irish visitors Frikkie Kapp/BackpagePix

Munster used both experience and opportunism to come away with a narrow, but valuable, 30-26 win away over the Cheetahs in the PRO14 in Bloemfontein on Sunday.

The Irish held on for a narrow victory and picked up a bonus point as they scored four tries through Arno Botha, Kevin O'Byrne -- who was named man of the match -- Liam Combes and Mike Haley.

The Cheetahs remain bottom of the conference after a heart-breaking setback with just one win and a draw in their eight matches this season.

But they came charging back after being 22-5 down to lead, only to allow Munster's guile to snatch away the win near the end.

Joseph Dweba scored twice for the home side with Ox Nche and Rhyno Smith also crossing the line in what was the Cheetahs third match in eight days after beating Cardiff Blues last weekend and then winning their Currie Cup promotion-relegation play-off on Tuesday against SWD Eagles.

The 21-year-old flyhalf Bill Johnston, in his first PRO14 start, got Sunday's scoring at the Free State Stadium going with an 11th minute penalty before the Irish visitors extended the score with the first try.

A quick touch-and-go penalty from ex-All Black Alby Mathewson, who darted to the line as the Cheetahs were caught unawares, set it up. While the scrum half was held up just before the line, it was the former Springbok Botha who picked up the ball and twisted his body to stretch over and dot down in the 16th minute.

Botha was one of five changes to the Munster line-up, depleted by call-ups to the Irish squad for the November internationals as well as through injury. Munster had Tyler Bleyendaal back after eight months out through injury and he captained the team.

The PRO14's top try scorer Sibahle Maxwane looked to be away for a first home try just three minutes later, but the Cheetahs' flyer was caught by Alex Wootton with a try-saving tackle.

But a 27th minute yellow card handed to Chris Cloete, one of three South Africans in the Munster pack, allowed the Cheetahs an advantage which they took immediately.

The penalty conceded by Cloete was kicked into touch by the Cheetahs, who then won the line out and pushed over with the try awarded to hooker Dweba.

But Munster hooker Kevin O'Byrne took advantage of more hesitant defending to score the visitors' second try some 10 minutes later and Johnston's conversion allowed a 15-5 half-time lead.

Munster's third try followed five minutes into the second half as they cleverly sucked in the Cheetahs defence, leaving plenty of space out wide to get the ball to wing Liam Coombes , who went over for a debut try.

The 22-5 lead looked to be a strong platform for victory but the hosts found a second wind and came storming back.

A short throw-in at a Cheetahs' lineout in the 52nd minute allowed Nche to bring the score back to 22-12 as the home side got reward for a period of forward dominance and attack.

The score was reduced even further as Shaun Venter showed a quick turn of pace before flinging a basketball style pass out wide to Dweba to go over and Tian Schoeman's conversion further reduced the deficit to just three points.

A 64th minute counter-attack from inside their own half allowed the Cheetahs to go ahead for the first time as Schoeman broke the line, fed Venter and he in turn set fullback Smith away between the poles.

It was a lead that did not last long as Munster used several phases on the Cheetahs' goal line before a short pass allowed Haley over for a bonus point try and a 27-26 lead. But the conversion right in front of the upright was missed.

But with four minutes left Rory Scannell hit over a penalty from the halfway line to make it a four-point game and the Cheetahs could not force their way back.