Glasgow Warriors maintained their unbeaten record in the PRO14 this season by inflicting a first home defeat on the Toyota Cheetahs by 29-26, Warriors taking a bonus-point victory thanks to four tries, the clinching score coming three minutes from time by Rob Harley while man-of-the-match Callum Gibbins scored two.

“it was a great win and to keep the unbeaten record but I’m struggling to remember what happened,” admitted Gibbins, Warriors player of the month for September, afterwards.

“it was a really tough match, but we knew what it would be like after the training week at altitude and it was hard, but we made it hard for ourselves by not holding on to the ball.”

If the Scots visitors had enthused about their trip to the Cape, then their arrival was met by virtual apathy by the local supporters. The Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein would have been lucky if it was a tenth full. However, the home supporters did see their side take a half-time lead against a Warriors side which simply struggled to function in the key areas.

Glasgow took an early advantage when Finn Russell maintained his 100% record this term by landing a long-range penalty, his 17th successful kick of the season.

However, while Glasgow were ahead in the territorial stakes throughout the first period, the Cheetahs made far more progress with ball in hand, and look particularly dangerous through centres Francois Venter and William Small-Smith, but especially with a quick back three of Sergeal Petersen, Rosco Psecman and Makazole Mapimpi.

When they put the ball through hands, they always carried a threat, and so it proved when Venter found Specman out wide, the winger expertly drawing the tackle a pass outside for Petersen to go over in the corner, the score converted by Ernst Stapelberg.

The Warriors were toiling in every department. Having been worryingly driven back at the first scrum, which resulted in a penalty, Glasgow just could not get their line-out to function, gifting hard-fought territory back to the home side time and again.

Stapelberg landed a penalty to give Cheetahs a 10-3 lead, but Glasgow roared back, and after drives by Swinson, Gray and Wilson, Gibbins picked up from a ruck, rumbled through the middle and under the posts.

Glasgow just weren’t sharp enough on several occasions, typified when Cheetahs took the lead just before half-time. From the breakdown, Stapelberg stole the ball, Justin Basson launched a kick forward that Specman gathered to race in at the corner.

Trying to overcome operating at 1400m above sea level was as much of a challenge for the Scots as was harnessing the Cheetahs, but Glasgow passed up on two great chances, firstly when Johnson knocked on, then when Jonny Gray backed himself instead of Grigg outside. But soon Glasgow were all square again.

Full-back Ruaridh Jackson gambled and went for the interception almost on his own line, then broke upfield until fatigue set-in. However, support came from Gibbins who fell over for the touchdown, Russell making it 17-17.

A brace of penalties from Stapelberg took the South Africans 23-17 ahead, but Glasgow produced another lung-bursting counter, when Russell’s chip was gathered by Jackson, Henry Pyrgos and Nikola Matawalu interchanging passes so Pyrgos could go in at the posts. Again, Russell converted to put Glasgow a point in front.

However, shaking off a Cheetahs side that had won their previous three home ties in the PRO14 was proving impossible and the trusted boot of Stapelberg landed yet another goal, and Cheetahs led 26-24.

Amazingly however, Glasgow found enough for one last charge. They probed the Cheetahs defence, before, in the mayhem of the closing minutes, the clear head and vision of Finn Russell saw the Scotland fly-half produce a textbook cross-field kick, from right to left, where Rob Harley allowed the ball to bounce before flopping down on it for the try. There was just three minutes remaining.

Having run vital seconds off the clock, Russell pulled his attempt across the posts, and his unblemished kicking record from the season was gone.

The win however, was secured when referee George Clancy, the Irishman again at his usual bewildering best, blew for no-side.

“That was a hard match, and we made it hard for ourselves at times,” admitted Warriors coach Dave Rennie later.

“Cheetahs kept going but despite the conditions so did we and we should take credit for that.”

Cheetahs: Petersen, Speckman, F Venter, Small-Smith, Mapimpi, Stapelberg, Meyer, C Marais, van Jaarsveld, Botha, Basson, Hugo, Schoeman, H Venter, Mohoje.

Obi for Speckman (57), Lee for Mapimpi (73), S Venter for Meyer (60), Nche for C. Marais (51), Du Toit for van Jaarsveld (64), Bernardo for Basson (55), Pokomela for Mohoje (71).

Warriors: Jackson, Seymour, Grigg, Johnson, Sarto, Russell, Price, Bhattie, Brown, Z Fagerson, Swinson, Gray, Wilson, Gibbins, Hastings.

Matawalu for Johnson (67), Pyrgos for Price (55), Allan for Bhattie (45), Turner for Brown (41), Rae for Z Fagerson (64), Alainu-uese for Gray (58), Harley for Wilson (60).