Davids and captain lament loss despite first-half lead
Frustrated head coach Deon Davids said yesterday the Southern Kings had allowed the game to slip away from them after they had built a healthy lead over the Cheetahs in their farewell Super Rugby game.
After racing into a 17-3 lead, the Kings were eventually pipped 21-20 by the Cheetahs in a thrilling showdown, watched by 10 015 fans at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Davids also blamed the defeat on missed opportunities and calls going against his team in their final game of the season.
After consecutive wins over the Jaguares and Bulls, the Kings had been desperate to bow out of Super Rugby with their seventh win of the season in front of their home crowd.
“We let it slip and we were right in there until the end. We just let it slip,” Davids said.
“Whether you lead 17-3, if you don’t keep the scoreboard going, things will turn against you. We were also a bit unlucky with calls going against us, especially towards the end.
“In the first half we really played under pressure. The Cheetahs won the territory battle and we did not play to the best of our ability and to our structures.
“We also kicked a lot of ball away and there were a lot of mistakes. It was a stop-start affair.
“In the second half, we started well and we created some opportunities, but we did not finish them the way we could have, and have done in the past few games.
“Despite the fact that we made a lot of mistakes, I think we were in control of the game for most of the time. Just at critical times we did not use our opportunities and that is the way it goes if you do not take your chances. That is how the game goes.
“Sometimes you get the decisions for you, but it was not our night.
“Congratulations to the Cheetahs for using their opportunities better, even though they did not have a lot.
“They also came back from 17-3 behind to win the game. “It was bit of a bittersweet evening and it was not the best way in which we wanted to say thank you to each other and to the fans who supported us,” Davids said. Kings skipper Lionel Cronje said it had been a frustrating evening and he had expected more from his players.
“In the context of the game, to be quite honest, it was abit frustrating out there,” he said.
“Last week as well, against the Bulls we had a healthy lead. The response of the players, in certain areas of the game, especially around the breakdown, was a bit frustrating. We knew it was not going our way at the breakdown.
“Unfortunately, we did not stick to our programme there and I think it cost us throughout the game discipline-wise.
“The Kings just needed a better response from the players, which we unfortunately did not have.
“But nobody can take away what this team has accomplished this year and what it has meant for the Kings.
“The type of rugby we played was positive and we enjoyed it,” Cronje said.
At the death, the Cheetahs fought back with two quick tries from Clinton Swart and Raymond Rhule to snatch a dramatic win.
Thanks to two first-half tries, the Kings were leading 12-3 at the break in a tight game that kept the crowd on the edge of their seats.
From the outset, it was clear that the Kings were determined to put on a show for their home fans and they ran the ball at every opportunity against the Free Staters.
Throughout the season, the Kings have delighted fans across the country with their attacking brand of rugby, and they continued in the same vein in their final outing.
It was only the fourth win of the season for a Cheetahs side who were delighted to end the season on a high.
Southern Kings 20:
Tries: Makazole Mapimpi, Wandile Mjekevu, Giant Mtyanda. Conversion: Lionel Cronje. Penalty: Cronje.
Tries: Clinton Swart, Raymond Rhule. Conversion: Niel Marais. Penalties: Fred Zeilinga (2), Marais.