Ulster overturned a 12-point deficit to defeat the Kings 43-36 at the Wolfson Stadium in Zwide, Port Elizabeth, on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
In the first provincial match at this venue, Ulster found themselves trailing by a dozen points twice in the first half. However, an improved effort in the second half saw them draw level with the spirited Kings on three occasions before replacement flank Robbie Diack went over for the match-winning try in the 76th minute.
In a breathless first half full of attacking rugby, but shaky defensive play, the Kings initially wrestled the ascendancy away from Ulster, who had an uncharacteristically slow start to the game.
As early as the eighth minute, the hosts sped out to a 12-0 lead courtesy of two tries. Centre Berton Klaasen first crashed over for the opening score when he latched on to a short pass following a patient build-up by the Kings.
Flyhalf Oliver Zono skewed the conversion, but it wasn’t long before he was in the action again when his perfectly-timed kicked was pounced on by fullback Yaw Penxe for their second score of the game.
Ulster started to pile pressure on the Kings and were eventually rewarded when No 8 Sean Reidy finished off a scintillating effort, which started way back on their own tryline.
Sensing that Ulster were starting to work their way into the contest, the Kings’ defence withstood numerous attempts on their tryline before Zono added three more points to their tally after Ulster conceded a kickable penalty.
Through some excellent work by their forwards, the visitors would again narrow the deficit, but the Kings’ 12-point advantage was reinstated when wing Michael Makase pulled off an intercept, hacked the ball downfield and chased down his own attempt to score.
Up by 22-10, the Kings were forced to see out the first half with 14 players after Penxe was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-down. But as it turned out, the Kings’ defence held firm to keep the lead intact going into the break.
The early stages of the second stanza were a see-saw battle between the sides as they went back and forth in an attempt to score first after the restart.
Ultimately Ulster got the breakthrough when Andrew barged over to complete his brace. Shortly after that, scrumhalf John Cooney was over for a self-converted try to draw Ulster level at 22-22.
In a helter-skelter last quarter, the teams traded blows to score a combined four tries. Klaasen and Penxe scored again for the Kings to complete their double each.
But, with four minutes remaining and the scores tied at 36-36, former All Blacks fullback Charles Piutau worked his magic to breach the Kings’ line and then release Diack for the match-defining score.
Kings – Tries: Berton Klaasen (2), Yaw Penxe (2), Michael Makase. Conversions: Oliver Zono (3), Kurt Coleman. Penalty: Zono.
Ulster – Tries: Sean Reidy, John Andrew (2), John Cooney, Andrew Trimble, Clive Ross, Robbie Diack. Conversion: Cooney (2), Christian Leali’ifano (2).
Kings – 15 Yaw Penxe, 14 Michael Makase, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Alshaun Bock, 10 Oliver Zono, 9 Rudi van Rooyen, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Jurie van Vuuren, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 Bobby de Wee, 4 Stephan Greeff, 3 Rossouw de Klerk, 2 Stephan Coetzee, 1 Schalk Ferreira (c).
Subs: 16 Tango Balekile, 17 Miami Majola, 18 Martin Dreyer//Luvuyo Pupuma, 19 Lindokuhle Welemu, 20 Dries van Schalkwyk, 21 Rowan Gouws, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Jarryd Sage.
Ulster – 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Darren Cave, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 John Cooney, 8 Sean Reidy, 7 Chris Henry (c), 6 Matty Rea, 5 Alan O’Connor, 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 John Andrew, 1 Andy Warwick.
Subs: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Callum Black, 18 Ross Kane, 19 Robbie Diack, 20 Clive Ross, 21 Jonny Stewart, 22 Peter Nelson, 23 Tommy Bowe.
Photo: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images