Vodacom Western Province suffered a second consecutive Absa Currie Cup defeat on Friday evening when they went down 29-24 to a fired-up Free State Cheetahs team at Newlands.
The halftime score was 12-3 for the Cheetahs.
WP started promisingly enough and crossed the enemy try-line as early as the 2nd minute, only to be denied by the Television Match Official.
The "try" came as a result of quick thinking and good interplay between left wing Gio Aplon and scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage. The latter kicked the ball ahead and forced the Cheetahs to carry the ball over the touchline.
Aplon grabbed it and passed to Duvenage who gave it back to the little wing, who beat flyhalf Louis Strydom and crossed the line despite the attentions of Free State lock Francois Uys.
Referee Pro Legoete consulted the Televisjon Match Official, who to the great disappointment of the home crowd ruled Aplon was in touch before he scored.
The Cheetahs drew first blood via a Strydom penalty in the 13th and home pivot Willem de Waal slotted one in the 17th. Strydom got three more in a rather disappointing first half to gave his side a surprising 12-3 lead at halftime.
WP suffered a setback before kick-off when centre Tim Whitehead was ruled out due to a hamstring injury. That led to a reshuffle of the backline, with Frikkie Welsh moving to centre, JJ Engelbrecht coming into the side in place of Welsh and Gio Aplon moving to left wing to accommodate Engelbrecht at the right.
Province had to deal with another injury when fiery hooker Tiaan Liebenberg cried off injured to be replaced by Deon Fourie in the 22nd minute.
Coach Allister Coetzee must have given his charges a good tongue lashing at halftime, because it took them just three minutes to score the first try of the game.
After taking the ball through a number of phases Duvenage fed lock Adriaan Fondse who barged through a few tackles to score. De Waal converted and suddenly things looked much better at 12-10.
Strydom stretched the lead though with another penalty after flank Francois Louw was penalized for a ruck transgression.
The Cheetahs shocked the home crowd when they scored seven more points soon afterwards. Inside centre Meyer Bosman easily broke the attempted tackle of De Waal before setting a flying Kabamba Floors free. The replacement flank had no trouble scoring under the poles for Strydom to convert.
Province was in deep trouble with the score on 22-10 after 57 minutes. The visitors got another one after pouncing on a WP mistake - a knock-on by Frikkie Welsh - and wing Jongi Nokwe finished off a long-range movement. Strydom converted to make the score 29-10.
WP hit back with a try by Aplon after a good rolling maul. De Waal converted to give their supporters renewed hope at 29-17. They attacked strongly and came close to scoring again in the 71st min. but obstruction cost them a certain try.
Province continued to attack and their efforts were rewarded when No 8 Duane Vermeulen scored in the 75th min. after strong driving play. De Waal beautifully converted from far out to ensure a cliffhanger finish to the game.
WP threw everything into attack in the last minute, but the resolute defence of the Cheetahs kept them from scoring more points.
Vodacom WP - Tries: Adriaan Fondse, Gio Aplon, Duane Vermeulen; Conversions: Willem de Waal (3); Penalty: Willem de Waal.
Free State Cheetahs - Tries: Kabamba Floors, Jongi Nokwe; Conversions: Louis Strydom (2); Penalties: Louis Strydom (5).