The Brumbies ended the Kings' three-match winning streak with a 19-10 victory in Port Elizabeth on Saturday night. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
This was a vital win for the Brumbies, who extended their lead at the top of the Australian conference to eight points.
While the visitors deserved to become the first Aussie team to win in South Africa this season, the Kings had their chances to claim another Aussie scalp.
At the end of the third quarter, captain Lionel Cronjé turned down an easy three points that would have given his side a 13-5 lead. He opted to scrum from the penalty instead and conceded possession with a poor cross-kick.
Kings coach Deon Davids then strangely decided to substitute Cronjé with youngster Pieter-Steyn de Wet in the 63rd minute, and the Brumbies went on to score two tries – in the 64th and 71st minutes – to secure the win.
The Kings made the perfect start to this match when they were awarded a third-minute penalty try. The ball went wide to Makazole Mapimpi, who chipped it over the head of Tom Banks. Having lost the race to the ball, the Brumbies fullback made an early tackle on Mapimpi just as he was about to regain possession and score. Referee Jaco Peyer had no choice but to award the penalty try and show Banks a yellow card.
Wharenui Hawera was unsuccessful with his first penalty attempt at goal, and while the Kings were unable to add to their tally while facing 14 men, Cronjé's penalty goal gave them a 10-0 lead after 16 minutes.
But the Brumbies then worked their way back into the game, making good use of the maul in the Kings' red zone. After a collapsed maul close to the line, Ross Geldenhuys was yellow-carded, the visitors kicked for the corner, and Josh Mann-Rea went over from the lineout driving maul. Hawera's kick was again off target.
The Kings would have been pleased not to concede any more points while Geldenhuys was off, but they were fortunate not to let in a try three minutes before the break. Sam Carter couldn't collect Joe Powell's pass, but the ball appeared to go backwards to Rory Arnold, who ran over to score. The TMO, though, said there was 'clear and compelling evidence that the ball went forward' and the Kings survived.
The Brumbies would have gone into half-time wondering how they were trailing 10-5, considering they had 76% of the possession and 80% of the territory.
The visitors dominated the third quarter too, yet couldn't convert that pressure into points.
The Kings then surged back on to the attack and were awarded a penalty that Cronjé could have kicked over with his eyes closed to give his side an eight-point cushion. Instead, he chose to scrum and then put in a cross-kick for Alshaun Bock that went too far.
Turning down those three points proved to be costly, as the Brumbies hit back with their second try. The Kings took a quick lineout throw and a poor pass from Nicolaas Hanekom was intercepted by Chris Alcock. Powell then put a grubber into the left-hand corner for Aidan Toua, who scooped up the ball up to score. Hawera's conversion gave them a 12-10 lead.
The Brumbies struck again with 10 minutes to go when Banks chased down Tevita Kuridrani's grubber kick to score in the same corner, and Hawera added the extras.
Kings – Try: Penalty try. Conversion: Automatic conversion. Penalty: Lionel Cronjé.
Brumbies – Tries: Josh Mann-Rea, Aidan Toua, Tom Banks. Conversions: Wharenui Hawera (2).
Kings – 15 Chrysander Botha, 14 Alshaun Bock, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Lionel Cronjé (c), 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Stefan Willemse, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Irne Herbst, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Subs: 16 Kurt Haupt, 17 Chris Heiberg 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Johan Steyn, 22 Nicolaas Hanekom, 23 Pieter-Steyn de Wet.
Brumbies – 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Aidan Toua, 10 Wharenui Hawera, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Jordan Smiler, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter (c), 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Ben Alexander.
Subs: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Nic Mayhew, 18 Leslie Leulua'iali'i-Makin, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 De Wet Roos, 22 Andrew Muirhead, 23 Andrew Smith.
Photo: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images