Two tries in the final 10 minutes gave the Kings a memorable 25-21 victory over Edinburgh in Port Elizabeth on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
The result was well deserved for the Kings, who for much of the game showed a defensive steeliness that they have lacked for so long in the Pro14.
Edinburgh dominated possession and territory throughout the match, often taking the ball through 20 phases in the Kings 22, but the hosts repelled attack after attack.
It did, however, look as though Edinburgh may have ground out a win when Ross Ford scored from a driving maul minutes after the visitors were awarded a penalty try, giving them a vital two-score lead in the closing stages.
But the hosts never gave in and tries from debutant flyhalf Bader Pretorius and wing Yaw Penxe gave the Kings only their second win of the season.
The Kings started the match at a rate of knots, constantly looking to release their back three. They took an early lead when wing Bjorn Basson was freed up out wide, chipping the ball ahead and managing to ground it in the in-goal area.
However, Edinburgh hit back almost immediately as they took the ball close to the Kings line and inside centre Chris Dean ran a perfect inside line to slice through a gap in the defence and score.
The Kings tried to play the game at high tempo, but struggled to deal with the Edinburgh front row, Pierre Schoeman getting plenty of joy against Luvuyo Pupuma, that eventually saw the latter substituted after just over 20 minutes.
A couple of penalties from Masixole Banda during this time allowed the home side to take a deserving 13-7 lead into half-time.
A knock-on from Andisa Ntsila handed Edinburgh possession straight off the restart and the Kings were again on their own line facing multiple penalties, reset scrums and pick-and-goes.
It looked as though the dam wall had eventually burst as Edinburgh tighthead Pietro Ceccarelli forced his way over under the posts after 31 phases of play. Unbelievably, his try was correctly disallowed after the TMO spotted that he’d lost the ball forward in the process of grounding it.
The Kings’ defensive efforts received a blow when flank CJ Velleman was sent to the sin bin for deliberately collapsing an Edinburgh maul. Edinburgh were not going to miss an opportunity to take advantage of their numbers, and were awarded a penalty try after another dominant scrum in the Kings’ 22.
The result looked to be all but sealed when another strong maul allowed replacement hooker Ford to go over, which gave the visitors a vital two-score advantage.
However, the Kings just kept going and were boosted when wing James Johnston was yellow-carded for a cynical infringement at the breakdown in Edinburgh’s 22. A strong maul sucked in Edinburgh defenders, and on debut from the bench, Pretorius scored to make it a one-point game.
Suddenly the Kings’ tails were up, and straight off the next kick-off big Fijian Meli Rokoua broke away and threw a one-handed offload from the ground to speedster Penxe, who sprinted clear for the winning score.
Kings – Tries: Bjorn Basson, Bader Pretorius, Yaw Penxe. Conversions: Masixole Banda (2). Penalty: Banda (2).
Edinburgh – Tries: Chris Dean, penalty try, Ross Ford. Conversions: Jaco van der Walt (2).
Kings – 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Harlon Klaasen, 12 Tertius Kruger, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Ntabeni Dukisa, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Tienie Burger, 6 CJ Velleman, 5 JC Astle, 4 Andries van Schalkwyk, 3 Luvuyo Pupuma, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Schalk Ferreira
Subs: 16 Alandre Van Rooyen, 17 Lupumlo Mguca, 18 Alulutho Tshakweni, 19 Stephan Greeff, 20 Henry Brown, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Bader Pretorius, 23 Meli Rokoua.
Edinburgh – 15 Dougie Fife, 14 Tom Brown, 13 George Taylor, 12 Chris Dean, 11 James Johnstone, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Ally Miller, 6 Luke Crosbie, 5 Callum Hunter-Hill, 4 Fraser McKenzie (c), 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 David Cherry, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Darryl Marfo, 18 Murray McCallum, 19 Jamie Hodgson, 20 Mungo Mason, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 Juan Pablo Socino.