Cape Town – The Eastern Province Kings broke their duck as they clinched their first victory of the season with a gutsy 32-24 (half-time 16-19) win over the Free State Cheetahs in their Absa Currie Cup clash at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
Reduced to 14-men soon after the start of the second half, the Kings fought manfully despite the numerical disadvantage to register a well-earned triumph.
They had gone five matches without a win until this clash but they eventually had something to celebrate against a Free State side which made too many mistakes on the night.
The Kings had come close in at least four matches this season but on Friday they managed to eventually seal the deal.
The Cheetahs needed a win to remain in touch of the playoff positions and now face a tough challenge trying to qualify.
Scott van Breda opened the scoring with an eighth minute penalty after a power scrum from the Kings forced the Cheetahs into transgressing.
Minutes later the visitors were caught offside and Van Breda stepped up again to slot a second penalty to make it 6-0.
It took 17 minutes for the Cheetahs to open their account and it came via a try from flank Gerhard Olivier who fell over the tryline from a driving maul. Fred Zeilinga converted.
It was not long after that scrumhalf Shaun Venter dummied his way over from a scrum to notch his team’s second try. Zeilinga slotted the easy conversion and it was 14-6 after the first quarter.
But EP struck back with a superb try from flying wing Luther Obi who burst through the Free State defence to score untouched under the posts. Van Breda added the two points to reduce the deficit to one point.
But a wild pass at the restart by Kings scrumhalf Enrico Acker eventually resulted in fullback Clayton Blommetjies collecting a kick ahead from centre Rayno Benjamin to touch down for his side’s third try.
A Van Breda penalty got it back to a tight three-point margin on the stroke of halftime.
Discipline cost the Kings in the first half and they could not get it right early in the second either as centre JP du Plessis was shown a red card for landing punch in the face of an opponent. That happened in the 45th minute and was a massive setback for the homeside but one which they turned in their favour.
The handling errors on both sides mounted for no obvious reason other than what could have been over-eagerness.
The game needed a measure calm and the Kings found it despite being that man down. Flank Paul Schoeman powered through a tackle on the halfway line made the space out wide for wing Siyanda Grey who took the pass and sped over to score his second try of the season. Van Breda was on target with the conversion to put EP ahead by 23-19 after 57 minutes.
Three more Van Breda penalties saw the Kings extend their lead to 32-19 and the small home crowd started sniffing a possible win with only 10 minutes remaining in the clash.
Sergeal Petersen scored a bonus point try for the Cheetahs with two minutes remaining but it was not enough to deny the home team their win.
Tries: Luther Obi, Siyanda Grey
Conversions: Scott van Breda (2), Grey
Penalties: Van Breda (6)
Free State Cheetahs
Tries: Gerhard Olivier, Shaun Venter, Clayton Blommetjies, Sergeal Petersen
Conversions: Fred Zeilinga (2)