The Southern Kings suffered their fourth successive defeat in the PRO14 by going down 36-30 to Italian side Benetton on Saturday.
Despite promising showings against Ulster, Munster and the Glasgow Warriors in their first three games of the campaign, the Port Elizabeth-based side got their European tour off to a disappointing start at the Stadio Monigo in Treviso.
Both sides went into the clash without a victory so far this season, with Robbi Kempson’s team continuing their winless record.
The Kings opened their account through a Demetri Catrakilis penalty, before the home side – with several returning Italian internationals – struck back almost immediately via a try from left wing Angelo Esposito.
Unlike the Kings with their earlier chances, Benetton scored from their first proper attacking opportunity with former Stormers scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage providing a neat assist for Esposito.
Catrakilis traded penalties with Benetton flyhalf Ian Keatley before the Irishman, playing in his 200th game in the competition, dived over in the corner seconds before half time.
Despite enjoying most of the possession and dominating physically through their forwards, the Kings could only muster three penalties for their efforts, going into the break 15-9 down.
After a brilliant finish, Fijian wing Ratuva Tavuyara stretched the hosts’ lead soon after the break. Further tries from Ignacio Brex and Federico Ruzza helped the Italian side claim a comfortable first victory of their campaign.
The Kings showed a gallant fightback in the final quarter to give the final scoreline a respectable look with three late tries from Rossouw De Klerk, Christopher Hollis and Bobby de Wee. All three tries were converted by debutant Siya Masuku.
Still bottom of Conference B, the Kings continue their tour next week against the Glasgow Warriors before facing Welsh outfit Ospreys on 9 November.
Southern Kings – Tries: Rossouw De Klerk, Christopher Hollis, Bobby de Wee. Conversions: Siya Masuku (3). Penalty: Demetri Catrakilis (3).
Benetton – Tries: Angelo Esposito, Ian Keatley , Ratuva Tavuyara, Ignacio Brex, Federico Ruzza . Conversions: Ian Keatley (3), Antonio Rizzi. Penalty: Keatley (1).
Southern Kings – 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Christopher Hollis, 13 Sibusiso Sithole, 12 Tertius Kruger, 11 Josiah Twum-Boafo, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Josh Allderman, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Bobby de Wee, 6 Tienie Burger, 5 JC Astle, 4 Aston Fortuin, 3 Pieter Scholtz, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Alandre van Rooyen, 17 Xandre Vos, 18 Rossouw De Klerk, 19 Jerry Sexton, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Siya Masuku, 22 Elrigh Louw, 23 Erich Cronje.
Benetton – 15 Luca Sperandio, 14 Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Alberto Sgarbi (c), 11 Angelo Esposito, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Marco Barbini, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Tomas Baravalle, 1 Federico Zani.
Subs: 16 Engjel Makelara, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Michele Mancini Parri, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Giovanni Pettinelli, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Antonio Rizzi, 23 Marco Zanon.