Cheetahs 14 Emerging Ireland 21
Emerging Ireland held off a strong challenge from Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Sunday to end their mini-tour of South Africa with a narrow triumph.
Having already accounted for Griquas and the Pumas in previous clashes, tries from Nathan Doak, Shane Daly and Jamie Osborne helped Ireland to edge out a side that previously had a three-season stint in the Pro14.
The home team had looked set to take the lead when winger Daniel Kasende squeezed over in the right corner, but a Cheetahs player was adjudged to have stepped into touch in an earlier part of this move.
Simon Easterby’s charges were initially kept under pressure in spite of this let-off, before eventually finding themselves on the front-foot towards the end of the opening quarter.
After Ireland secured possession off an attacking lineout, Doak dotted down for a try that was supplemented by a Jack Crowley conversion. However, Ireland were briefly reduced to 13 men after Cian Prendergast and Joe McCarthy were sinbinned in the 25th and 29th minutes respectively.
Cheetahs – who featured former Ulster scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar among their starting line-up – conjured a penalty try in between these indiscretions, but the visitors dug deep to keep themselves on level terms (7-7) in advance of being restored to their full complement.
This was how it remained until the interval, but it was Emerging Ireland who ultimately sparked fresh life into the contest on 52 minutes as Munster fullback Daly broke through a gap and sidestepped Kasende on his way to crossing the Cheetahs whitewash.
Another bonus strike from Daly’s provincial colleague Crowley moved Ireland seven points in front and they edged a step closer to another victory with a third try just shy of the hour mark. Following an explosive run by Robert Baloucoune off a sweeping set-piece move, Doak released outside centre Osborne for a superb dash over the line.
Yet Emerging Ireland were once again forced to deal with adversity when openside flanker John Hodnett was yellow carded with 16 minutes left on the clock. They coped admirably with their numerical deficiency, but after going close on a number of occasions, referee Morne Ferreira awarded Cheetahs yet another penalty try.
Although this ramped up the tension in the closing moments, Ireland did enough to claim the spoils and the prize money of 250,000 rand (€14,250) that was on offer to the winner.
SCORERS – Cheetahs: 2 penalty tries. Emerging Ireland: N Doak, S Daly, J Osborne try each, J Crowley 3 cons.
CHEETAHS: C Jasper; D Kasende, R Ebersohn, F Steyn, T Mafura; S Masuku, R Pienaar; S Ferreira, M van der Merwe, M Coetzee; M Zito, V Sekekete; J Rudolph, R Bernardo, O Mohoje.
Replacements: L van der Westhuizen for Coetzee (33 mins-half-time); C Dawson for Ferreira (h-t); L van der Westhuizen for Bernardo, C Van Vuuren for Coetzee (both 46); S Qoma for van der Merwe (49); R Fortuin for Steyn, R Kruger for Masuku (both 62); J Droste for Zito (66).
EMERGING IRELAND: S Daly (Munster); C Nash (Munster), J Osborne (Leinster), S Moore (Ulster), R Baloucoune (Ulster); J Crowley (Munster), N Doak (Ulster); M Milne (Leinster), T Stewart (Ulster), T Clarkson (Leinster); J McCarthy (Leinster), T Ahern (Munster); C Prendergast (Connacht), J Hodnett (Munster), M Deegan (Leinster).
Replacements: D Barron (Munster) for Stewart, J Wycherley (Munster) for Milne, R Salanoa (Munster) for Clarkson (all 46 mins); B Deeny (Leinster) for McCarthy, J Culhane (Leinster) for Deegan, B Murphy (Leinster) for Doak (all 62); J Flannery (Munster) for Moore (71).
Referee: Morne Ferreira (South Africa).