The Lions earn narrow victory over the Cheetahs

The British and Irish Lions earned a narrow 26-24 victory over the Free State Cheetahs this afternoon in Bloemfontein.

Ian McGeechan made 15 changes to the team that hammered the Golden Lions 74-10 on Wednesday and after racing to a 20-0 after twenty minutes it looked as if the tourists were set to rack up yet another cricket score against Super 14 opposition.

Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris showed that his brawn is matched by blistering pace when he out sprinted the Cheetahs defence to dot down for the game's first try. Keith Earls grabbed a second five minutes later when he got on the end of a brilliant chip by James Hook before showing a great step to beat two defenders.

Despite the great start for the Lions the first half was turned on its head when Ferris picked up a yellow card for killing the ball at the ruck. The Cheetahs took full advantage of their numerical superiority and worked a brilliant overlap for live wire winger Danwel Demas.

When Wian du Preez barged over Lee Byrne to score the Cheetahs second try of the match the Lions knew that they had a game on their hands. Thankfully for the tourists James Hook was imperious with the boot landing three first half penalties to give the tourists a 23-14 lead at the break.

The second half was a scrappy affair with both teams struggling with continuity. Winger Shane Williams gifted the Cheetahs an easy third try when his attempted pass was intercepted by Corne Uys. But the Lions just did enough to see out the last few minutes without conceding a score.

With the competition for Test places heating up, none of the players on show this afternoon were able to put down a marker.

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