The EP Kings booked their berth in the Absa Currie Cup First Division final with a dramatic 32-29 extra-time victory (halftime 9-16, fulltime 22-22) over the Leopards in their semifinal at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
With the sides tied at 22-22 after regulation time, two extra halves of 10 minutes each were played to decide the winner.
Kings fullback Scott van Breda first kicked a penalty and then converted replacement scrumhalf Kayle van Zyl’s try.
The home side thought that would do it for them in the added time, but the Leopards, as they did all night, hit back with a try through Tiaan Dorfling and a conversion by Adriaan Engelbrecht to set up an exciting last few minutes.
But the Kings, with Van Breda scoring 22 points with his accurate boot, managed to hang on and secure a spot in the final against the Pumas, in Nelspruit, on October 11.
The Kings got the match off to a quick start with two Van Breda penalties in the first seven minutes. But that proved to be a bit of a false dawn as the Leopards began stamping their authority on the game.
The visitors’ centre Adriaan Engelbrecht, who had a nightmare with the boot against the Eagles in George last week, hardly put a foot wrong in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
He slotted three penalties to give the Leopards a 9-6 lead through the first half hour. The Kings did draw level minutes later with another Van Breda penalty but it proved short-lived.
The Leopards forwards were superb in the first half, dominating their opposition with surprising ease as they set up quality ball for their backs.
The Kings defended well after being starved of possession and were forced into tackling for the majority of the first half.
The Kings almost looked stunned as the Leopards played with a rare determination not often displayed by opposition teams at NMB Stadium during this competition this season.
They were rewarded for their persistent raids on the Kings’ tryline when left wing Edmar Marais did well to finish off superbly in the corner for the opening try of the match. Engelbrecht kicked the difficult conversion to help his team to a 16-9 lead at the break.
The Kings took to the field a different side at the start of the second half. They left their kicking tactic back in the dressingroom and opted rather to let the hands do the work.
It took almost 15 minutes of second-half pressure for them to eventually cross the Leopards’ tryline.
After putting the ball through numerous phases, Tim Agaba crashed over under the posts and Van Breda slotted the conversion to level the score at 16-16.
The Kings edged ahead on the hour mark when Van Breda kicked a penalty which resulted from a yellow card shown to Leopards number 8 SJ Niemand.
Engelbrecht scored his team’s first points of the second half with a 73rd-minute penalty to tie matters up again at 19-19.
Van Breda pushed the Kings ahead again with a penalty four minutes later only for Engelbrecht to force the draw in regulation time with a penalty of his own on the final hooter.
EP Kings – Tries: Tim Agaba, Kayle van Zyl. Conversions: Scott van Breda (2). Penalties: Van Breda (6).
Leopards – Tries: Edmar Marais, Tiaan Dorfling. Conversions: Adriaan Engelbrecht (2). Penalties: Engelbrecht (5).