Kings stage great fightback

George Byron

EP KINGS director of rugby Alan Solomons said his 14-man team showed great character to fight back and earn a heart-stopping 26-26 draw against the Pumas, despite trailing 26-5 at one stage.

“That was a massive effort by the team,” Solomons said after a dramatic climax which saw skipper Luke Watson score two tries in the final six minutes to enable his team to snatch a draw on Friday.

“The result means we finish top of the log and qualify for the Currie Cup Premier Division playoffs. This was a big result for us and puts us in a good position.”

The Kings were reduced to 14 men when explosive Samoan wing Paul Perez was red-carded for repeatedly punching a Pumas player 13 minutes before half time.

“Considering that we were without Paul for a long time and then went down to 13 players when David Bullbring was shown a yellow, it was a great effort to fight back,” a delighted Solomons said.

The Kings play their final league match against the Leopards on Saturday and will finish top even if they lose.

“Because the game against the Leopards is now of academic interest only, it will allow us to strategise and plan ahead for what will be a busy end to the season. We have in a way become master of our own destiny now.

“The crowd support on Friday was tremendous and the reaction of the fans at the end of the game was magnificent,” Solomons said.

There is now the possibility that the Kings might rest some key players ahead of the trip to Potchefstroom as they begin to contemplate the business end of the season.

They will, however, be highly motivated to beat the Leopards because victory will stretch their unbeaten record to an impressive 14 matches in the First Division.

At one point, when the Kings were trailing 26-12 with only six minutes left and a man short, it looked as though a night which started with so much promise would end in a nightmare for the home team.

But two dramatic late tries by skipper Watson and some cool-headed kicking by flyhalf George Whitehead enabled the Kings to share the spoils against a gutsy Pumas outfit on a night of high drama.

Apart from Watson, the other try scorers for the Kings were the speedy wing Marcello Sampson and the powerful Tiger Mangweni.

With their backs firmly to the wall at the start of the second half, the Kings fell further behind when Coenie van Wyk scored a well-worked try for the visitors shortly after the resumption.

The dependable JC Roos, one of the best kickers in the First Division, converted to put the Pumas into a comfortable 23-5 lead.

Despite a few scares, it eventually turned into a night of triple celebrations for the Kings as they kept their fans sitting on the edge of their seats right up until the final whistle.

Besides clinching top spot on the First Division log, it also earned EP a money- spinning promotion/relegation clash against the team finishing bottom of the Premier Division log.

The victory also handed the unbeaten Kings a home semifinal against the team finishing fourth on the final league table in the First Division playoffs.

Scorers:

EP Kings 26: Tries: Marcello Sampson, Tiger Mangweni, Luke Watson (2): Conversions: George Whitehead (3)

Pumas 26: Tries: JW Jonker, Coenie van Wyk. Conversions: JC Roos (2). Penalties: Roos (4)

 

P

W

L

D

F

A

Pt

EP Kings

13

11

0

2

492

226

58

Pumas

13

9

2

2

496

326

49

Leopards

13

8

5

0

491

426

43

Griffons

13

8

5

0

437

462

43

SWD

13

7

5

1

428

434

38

Boland

13

2

9

2

423

463

25

Falcons

13

3

9

1

382

553

23

Bulldogs

13

0

13

0

291

550

10

 

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