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Ulster rescue draw against Cheetahs with last second try in Bloemfontein

By Adam McKendry

A last second try from Henry Speight saw Ulster rescue a draw from the jaws of defeat in Bloemfontein as they drew 39-39 with the Cheetahs at Toyota Stadium.

In a ten-try thriller, it looked like the hosts had secured their first win of the season when Rabz Maxwane crossed late, but Ulster showed outstanding resolve to fight back and take away three points in a bonus-point draw.

It looked like Ulster were in trouble early when Gerhard Olivier was sent over by Nico Lee after just 100 seconds for a try, but the visitors responded in almost identical fashion a minute later when Darren Cave set David Shanahan under the posts.

Tian Schoeman put the hosts back ahead with a penalty, but completely against the run of play Ulster grabbed a second try, Stuart McCloskey riding a tackle and offloading to set Cave away, and his inside pass again put Shanahan over for the seven-pointer.

While Peter Nelson was able to prevent Tian Meyer from scoring when the scrum-half chipped in behind, the Cheetahs would lead at the break when Rabz Maxwane carved his way through and set wing partner William Small-Smith over the line for the try.

Burns levelled proceedings five minutes after the restart when he knocked over an easy penalty, but the Cheetahs began to drive home their forward dominance at the maul, and Joseph Dweba piloted one over the line for the try in the 53rd minute after Alan O'Connor saw yellow for repeated offences.

Burns immediately struck back with a second penalty of the game, but Ulster's maul defence let them down again as Jacques du Toit landed the Cheetahs their fourth try of the night off the back of another set piece.

Ulster responded almost immediately though as the game became increasingly scrappy, and it was replacement scrum-half Johnny Stewart who crossed, taking Stuart McCloskey's offload over the line.

Having been decimated at the maul all night, Ulster then took the lead when they forced a penalty try from their own maul, Charles Marais the guilty party when he hauled it down as it was about to cross the line.

But the dangerous Cheetahs refused to lie down and it was the lethal Maxwane who proved the difference maker, regathering his own kick over the top and dotting down to put the hosts back ahead before Louis Fouche hammered over a monster penalty from inside his own half to take the lead to seven.

Ulster would not be beaten, however, and after winning their own restart they went through the phases and Speight got that all-important try, twisting over at the line, with Burns' nerveless conversion sharing the spoils.

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