The Scarlets overcame a 13-point deficit to grind out a 34-30 victory over the Kings in Port Elizabeth on Sunday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
The Kings played well, but as has been the case so often this season, they were unable to sustain their effort in the final quarter.
The Scarlets, deprived of at least 15 first-choice players due to international duty and injuries, were pushed to their limit, yet managed to get the job done. Flyhalf Dan Jones orchestrated the win for the Welsh region with a supreme individual performance that saw him contribute 19 points.
The Kings exerted most of the pressure in the first half, overcoming an early try blow to grab the ascendancy.
After the Scarlets stormed into the 22, a knock-on handed possession back to the Kings, who cleared their lines. But the visitors were not to be denied as Tadgh Beirne scored from the resultant lineout after Paul Asquith implemented a vicious fend-off and offloaded to create the try.
Sparking an attack from the kick-off, the Kings hit back immediately when the ball was kicked over the top and rolled into touch off a Scarlets player. Having secured the ball at the lineout, the hosts strung together a couple of phases before Oliver Zono’s perfectly weighted kick-pass found winger Michael Makase for the Kings’ opening score.
They streaked through for another unconverted try shortly afterwards to take the lead for the first time, and then Zono landed two more penalties for a 16-10 lead at the break.
When Martin du Toit danced his way through the Scarlets defence for a third Kings try, extending their margin to 13 points, the prospect of the hosts upsetting the defending champions became all the more likely.
But the reality of the gulf in depth and quality soon hit home as the Scarlets cut down on their errors and wrestled back the momentum. They chalked up 17 unanswered points, including a try from South African tighthead Werner Kruger to regain the lead.
It was all action in the last 15 minutes as the lead exchanged hands twice because of a converted try either way, but in the end the Scarlets held on to secure the victory.
For the Kings, this performance and result were a vast improvement on the Scarlets’ 57-10 triumph over them in the return fixture earlier this year, but that will be little consolation for the hosts, whose winless streak now stretches to nine matches.
Kings – Tries: Michael Makase, Yaw Penxe, Martin du Toit, Harlon Klaasen. Conversions: Oliver Zono, Kurt Coleman. Penalties: Oliver Zono (2).
Scarlets – Tries: Tadhg Beirne, Ioan Nicolas, Werner Kruger, Dan Jones. Conversions: Jones (4). Penalties: Jones (2).
Kings – 15 Yaw Penxe, 14 Michael Makase, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Martin du Toit, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Oliver Zono, 9 Rudi van Rooyen, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Martinus Burger, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Bobby de Wee, 4 Stephan Greeff, 3 Rossouw de Klerk, 2 Stephan Coetzee, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Subs: 16 Alandre van Rooyen, 17 Luvuyo Pupuma, 18 Pieter Scholtz, 19 Jurie van Vuuren, 20 Dries van Schalkwyk, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Harlon Klaasen.
Scarlets – 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Steff Hughes, 12 Paul Asquith, 11 Ioan Nicholas, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Jonathan Evans (c), 8 Josh Macleod, 7 Will Boyde, 6 Tadhg Beirne, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Lewis Rawlins, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Dylan Evans.
Subs: 16 Taylor Davies, 17 Rhys Fawcett, 18 Simon Gardiner, 19 Tom Price, 20 Jack Condy, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 Ioan Hughes, 23 Morgan Williams.
Photo: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images