Melani Nanai scored a brace of tries as the Blues ground out a 34-18 win over the Kings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The Blues came away with the result, but the hosts certainly earned their fair share of bragging rights. Besides the Kings’ win over the Sunwolves, this was undoubtedly one of their best performances of the season as they remained competitive for the full 80 minutes and delivered an impressive second-half performance.
In fact, the Blues had only edged the Kings by two points in the regular 40 minutes of the second period, but Tevita Li scored an 85th-minute try to secure the bonus-point win and ensure the scoreline looked especially flattering.
Despite a much improved second-half performance, the Kings’ perennially problematic defence did let them down in the first half as they missed 19 tackles, while the Blues slipped just four despite the fact that the hosts marginally enjoyed the better of possession in the opening period.
Not for the first time this season either, though, the Kings made an encouraging start to the match, and moved into a 10-5 lead after 15 minutes, with scrumhalf James Hall scoring the first try when he grounded the ball against the base of the post.
However, the Kings’ poor first-time tackling again let them down, with Nanai twice joining the line and bursting through the defence to score the simplest of tries within a five-minute spell before the half-hour mark.
Earlier, hooker James Parsons had opened the tally when he scored from the back of a lineout drive, with the Blues opting to use this set-piece option on a number of occasions in the first half.
Having led 19-10 at the break, West edged the Blues further ahead with a 44th-minute penalty, but the Kings then produced a gutsy period of play as they camped in opposition territory, and were duly rewarded when hooker Edgar Marutlulle dotted down.
Jürgen Visser slotted a long-distance penalty soon after and suddenly it was just a four-point ball game with 20 minutes left to play. However, the Kings disappointingly conceded a turnover at a scrum 5m from their tryline, with Blues replacement Billy Guyton cruising over under the posts to finally seal the result with his team’s fourth try in the 70th minute.
Li then scored some five minutes after normal time, enabling the Blues to emerge with a somewhat fortuitous try-scoring bonus point.
Kings – Tries: James Hall, Edgar Marutlulle. Conversion: Elgar Watts. Penalties: Watts, Jürgen Visser.
Blues – Tries: James Parsons, Melani Nanai (2), Billy Guyton, Tevita Li. Conversions: Ihaia West (3). Penalty: West.
Kings – 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Lukhanyo Am, 13 Stefan Watermeyer, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Luzuko Vulindlu, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 James Hall, 8 CJ Velleman, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 JC Astle, 4 Steven Sykes (c), 3 Tom Botha, 2 Edgar Marutlulle, 1 Sti Sithole.
Subs: 16 Martin Ferreira, 17 Justin Ackerman, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Schalk Oelofse, 20 Stefan Willemse, 21 James Hall, 22 Louis Fouché, 23 Leighton Eksteen.
Blues – 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Melani Nanai, 13 George Moala, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 James Parsons (c), 1 Sam Prattley.
Subs: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Nic Mayhew, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Hoani Matenga, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Matt McGahan, 23 Male Sa’u.
Photo: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images