Despite playing with 14 men for the final 34 minutes of the game, the EP Kings served up a performance of extraordinary passion and commitment to record their first win in the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division this season with a 32-24 victory over the Free State Cheetahs at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
Trailing 19-16 at half-time, the Kings lost centre JP du Plessis in the 46th minute when he received a red card for what the officials ruled as a punch.
As much of a blow as that was, it seemed only to galvanise the home team as they upped the intensity of their play to double their score for a 32-19 lead before the Cheetahs finally broke through in the 78th minute with a try by Sergeal Petersen.
The conversion was missed, giving the Kings an eight-point cushion with a minute remaining and although the Cheetahs put in another final desperate surge, the home team’s defence stood up to the challenge for a memorable victory.
Kings flank Paul Schoeman was named man of the match for a heroic effort, setting up their second half try when he broke down the blindside and released wing Siyanda Grey into space for a crucial score.
In a massive team performance, fellow flank Thembelani Bholi also shone with his powerful surges, proving extremely difficult to bring down and always making valuable metres beyond the gainline.
The other crucial contribution came from fullback Scott van Breda, who was in superb form with the boot, nailing six penalties and two conversions for a personal tally of 22 points.
In the first half, the Kings created a superb try for Luther Obi as they forced a gap in the midfield for the wing to race through, but the Cheetahs often fed off EP’s mistakes, which enabled them to score three first half tries.
They eventually earned the bonus point but may be disappointed at not taking greater advantage of their numerical superiority in the second half.
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)