Two tries from 19-year-old Sergeal Petersen helped the Kings to a 22-10 win over the Force in their debut Super Rugby game at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The result sees the Kings move to the top of the South African conference and third in the overall standings after the first full-weekend of the competition.
The Kings kept the Force scoreless in the first period as they showed great spirit after losing skipper Luke Watson through a blow to the throat after half an hour.
Fly-half Demetri Catrakilis kicked four penalties and played a key tactical game in the second half as the Kings sought to gain more territory.
Tries from wing Alfie Mafi and prop Pek Cowan saw the Force hold a 10-5 lead at half time after Kings wing Petersen had given the home side the early advantage with his team’s first try in the competition.
Catrakilis put the hosts back in front with two penalties early in the second half.
Man-of-the-match Petersen struck for a second time as he scored in the corner on the hour mark to put the Kings further head at 16-10.
Two more Catrakilis penalties secured victory for the Kings as the partisan home crowd went wild.
Petersen opened the scoring when he gathered a chip down the blindside from scrum-half Shaun Venter and the 32 000-strong crowd erupted after his swallow dive in the right-hand corner.
The Force, though, controlled much of the first half and hit back with two tries through Cowan and Mafi as they threatened to take charge of the match.
Their driving play often had the Kings on the backfoot and the hosts were forced to make numerous tackles just to stay in touch.
The Force, however, suffered through poor goalkicking and missed the only three shots they had at the posts. In the second half, they forsook kicking at the posts and opted for driving mauls from the line-out when they received penalties.
In the second stanza, the Kings placed greater emphasis on retaining possession and Catrakilis led an improved tactical kicking display to give them greater opportunity of scoring points.
From a period of pressure on the Force line, Petersen finally received the ball on the right and held off two defenders to cross for his second try, making it 16-10.
This jolted the Force, while providing a major confidence boost for the Kings and they more than matched their experienced opponents to enjoy the better of the second period.
Their defence was outstanding and when Catrakilis kicked two penalties to put them 12 points in front, their self-belief seemed to grow, ultimately resulting in a memorable win.
Tries: Petersen 2
Pens: Catrakilis 4
For Western Force:
Tries: Cowan, Mafi
Yellow cards: McMeniman – 53rd min – high tackle
Kings: 15 SP Marais, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ronnie Cooke, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Marcello Sampson, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Luke Watson (c), 6 Wimpie van der Walt, 5 Steven Sykes, 4 David Bulbring, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Jaco Engels, 18 Daniel Adongo, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht, 20 Johan Herbst, 21 George Whitehead, 22 Hadleigh Parkes.
Western Force:15 Will Tupou, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Winston Stanley, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Alfie Mafi, 10 Sam Christie, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Hugh McMeniman, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements:16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Kieran Longbottom, 18 Toby Lynn, 19 Richard Brown, 20 Chris Alcock, 21 Mick Snowden, 22 Junior Rasolea.
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)