Matt Faddes scored a hat-trick of tries as the Highlanders clinched a 48-18 win over the Kings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Regardless of the result, credit should still go to the Kings. Another gutsy performance saw them frustrate the Super Rugby champions for large parts of the encounter, but in the end the Highlanders finished with a flourish and came away with what may look to be a one-sided bonus-point win.
However, with 17 minutes left to play the Kings trailed by just two points. Yet the Highlanders scored four tries in the final stages to make the scoreline look extremely flattering, while ultimately coming away with the desired result.
The Kings made an encouraging start to the encounter, but would have rued an early missed penalty from flyhalf Elgar Watts and a needless yellow card to centre Shane Gates within the opening quarter.
In the time that Gates was off, Faddes ghosted over under the posts to put the visitors 10-0 ahead after an early penalty from Lima Sopoaga, and from there it looked as if the New Zealanders would begin to pull away.
However, if there is one thing the Kings have proven this season, it is that they have plenty of fighting spirit, and with basic mistakes continuing to blight the efforts of the Highlanders, frustration clearly began to set in for the Kiwi side.
Watts then opened the Kings’ account with a 27th-minute penalty, while just before the break Wandile Mjekevu darted over for a try that suddenly reduced the deficit to a mere two points.
The half-time stats illustrated that the Kings had enjoyed 64% of possession, but there’s no doubt the Highlanders would have been immensely frustrated by an error-strewn first-half performance that saw them fail to build pressure through patient buildup play.
Nevertheless, Faddes was able to stretch their lead to seven points with his second try soon after the restart, while replacement Dan Pryor opened up a bit of breathing room when he barged over to score in the 55th minute.
So often this season the Kings have faded in the second stanza, and it looked to be heading along that script again, but a penalty to Louis Fouché followed by a beautifully worked try to Steven Sykes suddenly brought the Kings back within two points.
It threatened to cause a nervy conclusion to the encounter, but the Highlanders were able breathe a little easier when Jack Wilson was put away to score in the corner with 10 minutes left to play.
Patrick Osborne, Faddes and then Aki Seiuli all scored during the latter stages as the Kings' resolve waned, and that was as good as that.
Kings – Tries: Wandile Mjekevu, Steven Sykes. Conversion: Louis Fouché. Penalties: Elgar Watts, Fouché.
Highlanders – Tries: Matt Faddes (3), Dan Pryor, Jack Wilson, Patrick Osborne, Aki Seiuli. Conversions: Lima Sopoaga (4), Fletcher Smith. Penalty: Sopoaga.
Kings – 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 Lukhanyo Am, 13 Stefan Watermeyer, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Wandile Mjekevu, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Ntando Kebe, 8 Aidon Davis, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 CJ Velleman, 5 John-Charles Astle, 4 Steven Sykes (c), 3 Tom Botha, 2 Edgar Marutlulle, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Subs: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Sithembiso Sithole, 18 Justin Ackerman, 19 Schalk Oelofse, 20 Jacques Engelbrecht, 21 Kevin Luiters, 22 Louis Fouché, 23 Luzuko Vulindlu.
Highlanders – 15 Matt Faddes, 14 Jack Wilson, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Ryan Tongia, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Te Aihe Toma, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Shane Christie (c), 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Mark Reddish, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Subs: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 19 Liam Squire, 20 Dan Pryor, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Patrick Osborne.
Photo: Michael Sheehan/Backpage Media