Kings get a taste of what lies ahead after fierce battle in Bay
THE EP Kings got an early taste of the tough battles that lie ahead when they slipped to a narrow 31-30 defeat against the Free State Cheetahs in an action-packed friendly at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium last night.
With their opening Vodacom Cup match against Griquas only two weeks away, Kings head coach Mzwandile Stick will be pleased with much of what he saw from his men despite the defeat.
Ahead of the clash, Kings skipper David Bulbring said he wanted his team to lay down an early marker, and they were able to leave the field with their heads held high after a fierce battle.
The Kings put the first points on the board when flyhalf George Whitehead succeeded with a penalty from 45 metres out after only three minutes.
Quick thinking by scrumhalf Kevin Luiters resulted in the Kings scoring the first try of the evening after he opted for quick tap which sliced the Free State defence wide open.
With Luiters at the heart of the move, the ball passed through the hands of several players before Hansie Graaf rounded it off by going over in the corner after 14 minutes.
The Cheetahs then struck back with a try of their own when bustling centre JP du Plessis dived over the line after sustained pressure from the visiting pack.
With the Cheetahs starting to find their feet, they were over for their second try when Wayvern Smith powered his way over for for a 12-8 lead.
Referee Rodney Boneparte was kept busy when tempers became frayed and after one ill-tempered incident Luiters was yellow-carded after 37 minutes.
Despite being a man down, the Kings ended the half with a flourish when Whitehead slotted a penalty to narrow the Cheetahs’ lead to three points. In the dying moments, Whitehead went over for the Kings’ second try to leave the home team leading 16-14 at the break.
The Cheetahs were quick out of the starting blocks in the second half and wing Elvin Brandt squeezed over in the corner.
With the game starting to open up and both sides giving the ball air, Luiters crashed over for the Kings’ third try and Scott van Breda nailed the conversion to put the Kings 23-21 in front.
The cool-headed Coenie Van Wyk then struck with a penalty to give the Cheetahs a narrow 24-23 lead with only 14 minutes left to play.
Play then swung from end to end with Dylon Frylinck dotting down for the Kings and Johan Grundlingh hitting back with Free State’s fourth and match-winning try.
The scorers: Cheetahs 31: Tries: JP du Plessis, Wayvern Smith, Elvin Brandt, Johan Grundlingh. Conversions: Coenie Van Wyk (4). Penalty: Van Wyk EP Kings 30: Tries: Hansie Graaff, George Whitehead, Kevin Luiters, Dylon Frylinck. Conversions: Scott van Breda, Tony Jantjies. Penalties: George Whitehead (2)