The Southern Kings’ winning Super Rugby streak came to an abrupt end when they slumped to a 19-10 defeat against the Brumbies at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
There were high hopes the resurgent Port Elizabeth side could notch a fourth consecutive win, but they were tripped up by a street-wise Australian outfit. The Australians had been desperate to end an unwanted four-match losing sequence.
Thanks to last night’s victory, the Brumbies hopes of making the end of season playoffs have been considerably boosted. The Brumbies outscored the Kings by three tries to one and delivered a dominant second half performance.
The opening exchanges of the second half were a brutal joust as both teams tried to find a chink in their opponents’ iron-clad defensive armour. It was the Kings who came desperately close scoring in the 57th minute, but brick-wall defence by the Brumbies frustrated the home side.
Despite the Kings’ pressure it was the Brumbies who scored first in the second period when wing Aidan Toua grabbed a kick ahead to dive over and lock the scores at 10-10. Flyhalf Wharenui Hawera then nailed a difficult conversion to put the Brumbies ahead 12-10 after 63 minutes.
The Brumbies were now in full flight and fullback Tom Banks was over for his team’s third try after 70 minutes to give the Brumbies a nine point lead after Hawera converted. The Kings spread the ball wide from the outset and they had a penalty try after two minutes when referee Jaco Peyper ruled that Brumbies fullback Tom Banks tackled Makazole Mapimpi without the ball.
It was the perfect start for the home side who attacked the Brumbies line with aggression from the opening whistle. With Banks off the field after being shown a yellow card the Kings tried to make the extra man advantage count, but they were held at bay by the Brumbies.
Inventive skipper Lionel Cronje was at the heart of the Kings’ attacking play and he struck a penalty after 16 minutes to put the Kings 10-0 ahead. With Banks back on the field the Brumbies drove forward and it was only desperate defence that kept the visitors out.
After Kings prop Ross Geldenhuys was sent to the sin bin, the Brumbies’ pressure paid off when hooker Josh Man-Rea dotted down after a powerful maul. Flyhalf Hawera missed the conversion which left the Kings with a slender 10-5 lead after 22 minutes.
As the half wore on it was the Brumbies who were enjoying territorial advantage in what was turning into a war of attrition. The Kings were left scrambling in defence at the end of the first half, but they somehow managed to cling onto their 10-5 lead at the break.
Last week the resurgent Kings made history by beating the Sharks and claiming their first win over South African opposition. The Kings were without three of the stars from their win over the Sharks – Chris Cloete, Masixole Banda and Wilhelm van der Sluys – and their presence was missed.
The recent successes of the home team ensured there was another sizeable crowd at the stadium and 17 000 fans braved the crisp conditions in Port Elizabeth.
Southern Kings 10: Tries: Penalty Try (worth 7 points). Penalty: Lionel Cronje
Brumbies 19: Tries: Josh Mann-Rea, Aidan Toua, Tom Banks. Conversions: Wharenui Hawera (2).