Super Rugby Round 19 - Cheetahs 34-13 Blues
Cheetahs claim final play-offs berth
ESPN Staff
July 7, 2013
Date/Time: Jul 6, 2013, 14:50 local, 12:50 GMT
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Cheetahs 34 - 13 Blues
Half-time: 19 - 10
Tries: Pretorius, Prinsloo, van der Walt
Cons: Smit 2
Pens: Smit 5
Tries: Gibson-Park
Cons: Kerr
Pens: Kerr 2
The Cheetahs made the finals in style
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The Cheetahs booked their first Super Rugby finals by dominating the Blues up front and scoring three tries to one as they condemned the Blues to a fifth successive defeat that ended the New Zealand team's own slim play-offs hopes.

The Cheetahs are the first team to complete the regular season, and their bye in the final round of matches guarantees four more points that will see them finish fifth or sixth. Their victory over the Blues also ended the play-offs hopes of the Sharks and Stormers.

The Blues were hampered by the absence due to injury of scrum-half Piri Weepu and five-eighth Chris Noakes, leaving them lacking some attacking direction, but replacements Jamison Gibson-Park and Baden Kerr received little quality ball to work with as their forwards were marched backwards at scrum time and struggled with the physicality of the hosts at the breakdown.

Gibson-Park handed the Blues a 7-3 lead with their only try before Riaan Smit took over, the Cheetahs five-eighth landing seven-from-seven shots at goal for 15 points - including the conversion of No.8 Philip van der Walt's try after a tight-head scrum to put the hosts 19-10 ahead at half-time.

The Blues created few opportunities after the break, but they defend their line resolutely until Cheetahs replacements Sarel Pretorius and Boom Prinsloo crossed in the final 10 minutes.

"I am very proud of my team, although we left a few tries out there," Cheetahs hooker and skipper Adriaan Strauss said. "We stuck to instructions this evening and each player focused on his task. No one gave us a chance of finishing among the top six teams when the season kicked off last February, but I always believed we could do it. We will take Sunday off and then start training for the knockout stage."

Blues captain Ali Williams lavished praise on the Cheetahs, who completed their 16-match league schedule with 10 victories and six defeats after starting the season with two losses.

"We were outclassed," the former All Blacks lock said. "They strangled the life out of us, and good luck to them in the rest of the competition. The Cheetahs play rugby with tremendous passion."

Rayno Benjamin and Lappies Labuschagne celebrate a try by Sarel Pretorius © Getty Images

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