Port Elizabeth – Cheslin Kolbe wriggled over for the bonus-point try to complete what Western Province regard as a perfect start to their Currie Cup campaign at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Friday night.
The 35-16 scoreline might suggest it was a comprehensive victory, but three yellow cards brandished by referee Jaco Peyper, who might have owed the Kings one after his abysmal refereeing in last year’s promotion-relegation game cost them their place in Super Rugby, made it a much harder slog than it should have been.
That is something that coach Allister Coetzee will doubtless pay attention to in the coming week, for their indiscipline could cost them against better-equipped opponents, which the Blue Bulls will probably be at Newlands next Saturday.
But Coetzee will probably be pleased to have had the obstacles placed in his team’s path, for it is out of adversity that champion teams are born.
And adversity there was aplenty for WP in Port Elizabeth, with a positive early start, which resulted in replacement wing Pat Howard powering his way over after taking the ball from flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis from an attacking scrum, being frittered away by a string of penalties conceded that surrendered that momentum.
That allowed the Kings to come back strongly into the game in the first half, with former WP skipper Luke Watson proving a massive thorn in the side of his erstwhile teammates as he led the hosts in typically inspirational fashion.
Watson scored the first-half try for the Kings that enabled them to enjoy an 11-10 lead at the halfway point, and the sheer class of his performance made him a deserved recipient of the Man of the Match award.
The Kings were full value for their lead. Indeed, you might say that WP did well to restrict it to just one point if you consider they enjoyed only 36% possession in the opening 40 minutes and also had to make 54 tackles against just 12 by the Kings.
Much of that was down to WP being handicapped by the way that yellow cards shown to Manuel Carizza and Pat Cilliers followed each other in almost perfect sequence.
WP were well in control when Carizza was sent off for a repeat infringement.
Just as Carizza was due to return to the field, Cilliers was on his way for cynical play in trying to blunt a Kings driving maul.
Having two tight forwards off for 20 minutes had to cost WP, and it did, though Coetzee should have been happy with the work-out that it gave to his defensive system, which came through with flying colours.
After the defensive effort prevented the Kings from making the inroads it should have, the WP class took its toll on the Currie Cup Premier Division newcomers in the second half.
By playing a much tighter and more disciplined game after half-time, most of it deep in Kings territory, they were able to squeeze the hosts out of the game.
Scott van Breda showed some good touches, and so did some of the other Kings players, but once WP clicked into forward gear in the second half and started to dominate the territory game, the Watson influence was negated and WP’s win was never in doubt once they had gone nine points ahead by the 50-minute mark.
They got there through a Nizaam Carr try that was created by WP simply relying on patience as they built up through one-off runners.
Demetri Catrakilis, who was outstanding in the Province No 10 jersey, added a penalty, before a Cheslin Kolbe kick and a great chase from Seabelo Senatla created the pressure on the Kings defence that led to a Michael van der Spuy try.
After that it was just a question of whether WP would grab the fourth, which they did despite Senatla being yellow carded for a third offside infringement.
Western Province – Tries: Pat Howard, Nizaam Carr, Michael van der Spuy and Cheslin Kolbe; Conversions: Demetri Catrakilis 3; Penalties: Demetri Catrakilis 3.
EP Kings – Tries: Luke Watson and Kevin Luiters; Penalties: Scott van Breda 2