The Toyota Cheetahs Guinness Pro14 fairy tale came to an end on Saturday evening with a 43-8 loss to the Scarlets at Parc Y Scarlets in Llanelli.
The match was billed to be game of the tournament, however, it turned out to be a one-sided affair as the defending champions secured their ticket to Scotland to face the Glasgow Warriors in the semi-finals.
On the night the Welsh outfit were flawless in their execution, while at the same token the Cheetahs butchered just about every opportunity they got in the match.
From the kick-off, Scarlets, dominated the play and it came as no surprise that it took only six minutes for Steffan Evans to go over for the first of his two tries.
Within the next ten minutes the home side raced to a 17-0 lead with the fullback Leigh Halfpenny slotting a penalty and scoring a try which he converted himself. Shortly afterwards he left the park injured.
The Montpellier-bound Springbok flyhalf, Johan Goosen, managed to get the Cheetahs on the board in the 24th minute with a penalty.
After numerous darts at the line and failed attempts to ground the ball, Scarlets managed to get their third try just before the half time break, with Evans crossing the white-wash to complete his brace. This gave the hosts a healthy 24-3 lead at the break.
The game was buried for the Cheetahs as soon as the 45th minute with Tom Prydie, who made his return from injury ran in for the Scarlets fourth try and a 31-3 lead.
Two more tries by the flanker James Davies and the replacement, Jonathan Evans, made any chance of the Cheetahs being able to claw their way back into the game impossible.
Clayton Blommetjies, who will be joining the Scarlets from next season managed to score the Cheetahs only try in the 76th minute.
The Cheetahs were simply outclassed on the day, and an unlikely win at Parc Y Scarlets was always going to be a bridge too far for the team, in season which started with a pre-season in December 2016. With full Super Rugby, Currie Cup and now Pro14 seasons behind them, the Cheetahs do deserve a well-earned break from the game.
The team has exceeded everybody’s expectations by reaching the play-offs in their debut season in the competition. For Cheetahs “fans” to even suggest that side was poorly coached, or that the departing players’ hearts weren’t in the game anymore is nothing less than ludicrous.
Take a bow Rory Duncan, your management team, Francois Venter and your charges!
Scarlets: Tries – Steffan Evans 2, Leigh Halfpenny, Tom Prydie, James Davies, Jonathan Evans Conv. – Leigh Halfpenny 2, Rhys Patchell 5 Pen. – Halfpenny.
Toyota Cheetahs: Try – Clayton Blommetjies Pen. – Johan Goosen. – MORGAN PIEK