Forgive me for being cynical …..
The search for the crowd (official attendance 9034) began again on Saturday 30 August at the EP Kings vs Golden Lions rugby match played in Port Elizabeth’s Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
It is with a heavy heart that I beg for a winning team – the years of being positive about Eastern Province Rugby are beginning to take their toll on all the scribes who I have been attending rugby matches with since the days of the Boet Erasmus Stadium. We have all flown the flag of support proudly from the yardarm.
On the bright side – an attendance of 9 034 at the Boet Erasmus stadium would have had rugby scribes in raptures ….
But, as an eternal optimist I said to Michael, George and Francois; “Who knows maybe the Kings will do a Pumas on the Lions tonight?”
The EP Kings started playing from left to right with the Lions starting. A deep kick and the Lions kept possession as wave after wave attempted to penetrate. On 2 and a half minutes the Lions flanker, Jaco Kriel opened the scoring – an easy conversion from Ruan Combrinck and the Lions were 7-0 ahead.
From the kick off the Kings raced to the Lions tryline.
A vocal crowd expressed their displeasure as a try was disallowed after Siyanda Grey motored over the line in the seventh minute. The pass to him was adjudged as forward and the Kings lost momentum.
And back the Lions drove the Kings into their 22.
Too many penalties – 3 in a row saw the Kings defending gamely as the Lions battered away until burly Lions prop, Ruan Dreyer butted his way over the line, another successful Combrinck conversion and the Lions were looking comfortable on 14-0 after 18 minutes.
The next 5 minutes saw a different game plan from the Kings as they hoisted the ball into the air each time in reply to the Lions and eventually gained territory, winning a scrum on the Lions 22. The Kings won the scrum and a lost forward ball from Shakes Soyizwapi denied them the 5 pointer they desperately needed.
Sustained pressure and the Kings won a penalty – kicked ahead for touch and the lineout – a brave charge, another penalty and another lineout followed by a maul saw Paul Schoeman make the tryline and open the scoring for the EP Kings after a lengthy TMO. Scott van Breda couldn’t miss and the Kings crept to within 7 points of the Lions on 14-7.
With 30 minutes gone an incredible burst of speed saw Shane Gates fall on the chip ahead ball – pandemonium from the partisan crowd, Scott van Breda successful and the teams were at level pegging on 14-14 after 33 minutes.
After a controversial penalty awarded against the Kings the Lions prop, Schalk van der Merwe showed a bit of speed and scored. Converted by Combrinck the Lions went ahead by 7 points.
A blistering run from the kick off saw Siviwe ‘Shakes’ Soyizwapi sail over for an EP Kings try in the South East corner. The conversion attempt hit the upright – great disappointment for Scott van Breda on the hooter for the first half.
The teams went back to the changerooms with the Lions leading the EP Kings 21-19.
Back for the second half and it looked like the Kings had a plan. Staying in the Lions half the Kings played set piece after set piece to end up with a scrummage on the Lions 22 followed by a decent run down the touchline, into a maul and then a Whitehead drop goal pushed the Kings into a slender one point lead for the first time in the game: 22-21 and 36 minutes to go.
A number of questionable decisions on the part of the 16th man playing for the Lions resulted in a Penalty kick for Ruan Combrinck on the Kings 22 and the Lions edged 2 points ahead with 20 minutes to go.
Not 2 minutes later another penalty to the Lions and Combrinck’s boot painfully stretched the lead to 27-22.
So in the 66th minute I asked myself is an offsides equal to a forward pass – as the 16th man continued to look for his glasses.
A denied Lions try in the 66th minute led to them finally crashing over in the corner for lock, Franco Mostert’s first of the evening in the 70th minute – converted by Combrinck and the Lions looked comfortable again with a 12 point lead.
With 8 minutes to go the Lions scrumhalf, Ross Cronje was yellow carded and, as some wags were heard to say; “At least now the teams have 15 men each!”
A late charge in the 78th minute could have piled the Kings with more misery as the TMO adjudged try by Lions number 20, Kwagga Smith, was disallowed.
30 seconds to go and Derick Minnie from the Lions sealed the Kings coffin with a try, Combrinck’s kick sailed through the uprights and the Lions won by 19 points. Strangely enough the winning margin when these two teams last met was 41 points so this must be seen as an improvement of sorts for the EP Kings.
Final Score: 41-22
EP Kings 22 (19) – Tries: Paul Schoeman, Shane Gates, Siviwe Sotyizwapi, Conversions: Scott van Breda (2), Drop Goal: George Whitehead
Golden Lions 41 (21) – Tries: Jaco Kriel, Ruan Dreyer, Schalk van der Merwe, Franco Mostert, Derick Minnie Conversions: Ruan Combrinck (5)
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