Kings are Super winners
History was made in Port Elizabeth when the Southern Kings marked their debut in Super Rugby with an impressive 22-10 win over the Force.
History was made in Port Elizabeth on Saturday when the Southern Kings marked their debut in Super Rugby with an impressive 22-10 win over the Western Force.
It was an emotional occasion - before, during and after the match.
And it is not just on the scoreboard where the Kings made their mark. They silenced their critics - who dismissed them as not worthy of Super Rugby status - with an inspired performance.
Now, at the end of Week Two, the Kings stand proud at the top of the South African conference and in third place on the global log - a position nobody ever thought they would achieve.
How long they will remain there is an open question, but with a bye and a guaranteed four points next week they will hover near the top for at least the next fortnight.
There was no doubt the Kings were motivated for this game. If you had any doubt, you just had to look at captain Luke Watson's emotional pre-match talk when his team were standing in a huddle on the field before kick-off.
And that emotion also showed in the early exchanges, perhaps a little too much - as the Kings conceded an early penalty for an overenthusiastic tackle that slipped up around the head of an opponent. There were other penalties, mostly the result of exuberance rather than any deliberate action.
Once the Kings' initial adrenaline ran out, the Force started coming into the game.
The home team was also not helped by some errant kicking, both out of hand and at goal. But at least their goal-kicking was better than that of the Force.
The Kings were given a huge scare when they lost captain Luke Watson - one of a handful of players with real Super Rugby experience - late in the first half, after he collected an elbow to the jaw.
However, the men from Port Elizabeth regained that initial enthusiasm after the break and produced an inspired team effort - often knocking back the Force's numerous raids with some brutal tackling.
And it was their sustained defensive efforts that won the day for the Kings.
Another problem for the Force was their misfiring set pieces - their line-outs often handed the Kings easy possession and put enormous pressure on the visitors, while the Kings dominated the scrums and won a couple of crucial second-half penalties as a result.
Kyle Godwin, who had a horror show with the boot last week, started this match in the same fashion - pushing a kickable penalty well wide in the seventh minute.
In the 12th minute Demetri Catrakilis had a chance to open the Kings' account, be he too was wide of the mark.
However, teenage wing Sergeal Petersen collected a Shaun Venter grubber that bounced favourably after hitting a Force player. Petersen's swan dive earned him a nine-out-of-10, but Catrakilis' conversion was another shock - 5-0 to the Kings after 15 minutes.
Right at the end of the first quarter the Force mauled their way over from a line-out five metres out, but the referee ruled that the maul had become static and awarded a scrum feed to the Kings.
However, the Force won a scrum feed after destroying the Kings' set piece and forcing them over their own line. Form there they launched a series of raids, with prop Pek Cowan eventually flopping over from a metre out. Godwin's horror show with the boot continued, as hit ht the upright from virtual point-blank range.
Alfie Mafi gave the Force the lead for the first time in the 29th minute, with slicking handling putting him into space on the left. Sam Christie took over the kicking duties from Godwin, but his first attempt was even worse - landing about halfway between the corner flag and the posts.
Catrakilis opened the second-half scoring, a penalty from 40 metres out after the Force were pinged for an offence on the ground.
And the Force flyhalf regained the lead for his team in the 52nd minute, after the Force were penalised at the breakdown again - 11-10.
And it went from bad to worse for the Force a few minutes later, when lock Hugh McMeniman was yellow carded for a high tackle.
Sergeal Petersen made good use of the numerical advantage, when the Kings surged forward and the Force were caught out wide, to score his second. Catrakilis was wide with the conversion attempt - 16-10 going into the final quarter.
That became 22-10 with 10 minutes to go, after the Force were penalised twice in quick succession at scrum time inside their own 22.
The Force threw everything into attack in the last 10 minutes, in a desperate bid to get back into the game, but the Kings stood their ground - with their tackling becoming more effective with every passing minute.
Despite taking the ball through 30-odd phases in the final two minutes, the Force could not crack the home team's defence and the Kings held on for a famous win.
Man of the match: Players like Cornell du Preez, Wimpie van der Walt, Steven Sykes and Bandise Maku threw their bodies into the fray with reckless abandon. Replacements like Jaco Engels and Jacques Engelbrecht also made an impact when they came off the bench. However, our award goes to the Kings' teenage wing Sergeal Petersen. He may have been the youngest player on the field and barely out of school, but the 18-year-old showed a maturity well beyond his age. Apart from his two tries, Petersen showed he has the makings of a real star with his allround display.
For the Southern Kings:
Tries: Petersen 2
Pens: Catrakilis 4
For the Western Force:
Tries: Cowan, Mafi
Yellow card: Hugh McMeniman (Western Force, 54 - foul play, high ]tackle)
Southern 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 (captain), 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 (captain), 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)
Assistant referees: Stuart Berry (South Africa), Christie du Preez (South Africa)
TMO: Johann Meuwessen (South Africa)