The Kings displayed incredible character to secure their first win of the season as they edged the Sunwolves 33-28 in Port Elizabeth on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
What an effort this was from the Kings. Their physical and mental fortitude was truly tested in an encounter where the Sunwolves threw everything they possibly could at their opponents, but failed to receive any reward besides a losing bonus point.
Both sides came into the clash without a win this season, so there was certainly plenty to play for in a contest that was always expected to be closely fought.
And so it proved, with the scores remaining deadlocked at 23-23 midway through the second half. In the context of the clash, a decisive period of play came just after the hour mark as first flyhalf Louis Fouché edged the Kings into a three-point lead with his third penalty of the night, while the hosts then produced a superb defensive effort to stave off a concerted Sunwolves attack soon after. Not once, but twice.
With the Sunwolves repeatedly turning down a shot at goal that could have enabled them to draw the scores level, they backed their attack against a Kings side that had been forced to make an inordinate amount of tackles, particularly in the second half.
Somehow, the Kings found the commitment and character to repel the Sunwolves, with their much-maligned defence this time coming to the fore, while they effected a number of all-important steals at the breakdown.
The Kings certainly deserve plenty of credit for their performance, which was full of character and attacking intent. They also completely dominated the Sunwolves at scrum-time for most of the match, with this set piece serving as a key weapon in their arsenal.
Although the tables were somewhat turned here in the second half, it was perhaps quite appropriately from a dominant scrum that Kings replacement Elgar Watts was able to score the match-winning try late in the game. It enabled the Kings to celebrate a victory that will undoubtedly remain a major highlight in their challenging 2016 campaign.
The hosts made an encouraging start to the encounter, which was justly rewarded on the scoreboard as first captain Steven Sykes and then wing Malcolm Jaer went over to score as the Kings opened up a 15-3 lead after the opening quarter.
Throughout this season the Kings have tended to start strongly before fading as the match wore on, and while the need to sustain an 80-minute effort would undoubtedly have been a key focus for them, they again let the Sunwolves back into the game.
Two quick-fire tries from Sunwolves hooker Shota Horie and flyhalf Tusi Pisi suddenly drew the scores level at 15-15 in the 25th minute, with the Japanese outfit once again proving how dangerous they can be with ball in hand.
However, another massive scrum from the Kings won them a penalty on the half-hour mark, and Fouché was able to restore a lead that was soon extended when centre Shane Gates pounced on a turnover to score an important breakout try.
The Sunwolves struck back just before the break, though, with lock Tim Bond finishing off a well worked try to reduce the deficit to just three points at half-time.
It would remain a fiercely fought affair in the second period, and while Akihito Yamada managed to score a consolation last-minute try for the Sunwolves to clinch a losing bonus point, the Kings emerged as deserved victors.
Kings – Tries: Steven Sykes, Malcolm Jaer, Shane Gates, Elgar Watts. Conversion: Louis Fouché (2). Penalties: Fouché (3).
Sunwolves – Tries: Shota Horie, Tusi Pisi, Timothy Bond, Akihito Yamada. Conversion: Pisi. Penalties: Pisi (2).
Kings – 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Siyanda Grey, 13 Stefan Watermeyer, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Malcolm Jaer, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Ntando Kebe, 8 Aidon Davis, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 CJ Velleman, 5 JC Astle, 4 Steven Sykes (c), 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Edgar Marutlulle, 1 Sti Sithole.
Subs: 16 Martin Ferreira, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Schalk Oelofse, 20 Chris Cloete, 21 Kevin Luiters, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Jaco van Tonder.
Sunwolves – 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Viliami Lolohea, 13 Harumichi Tatekawa, 12 Yu Tamura, 11 Akihito Yamada, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Kaito Shigeno, 8 Ed Quirk, 7 Andrew Durutalo, 6 Liaki Moli, 5 Timothy Bond, 4 Hitoshi Ono, 3 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 2 Shota Horie (c), 1 Keita Inagaki.
Subs: 16 Futoshi Mori, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Shinya Makabe, 20 Yoshiya Hosoda, 21 Tomás Leonardi, 22 Yuki Yatomi, 23 Mifiposeti Paea.
Photo: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images