The EP Kings pipped the SWD Eagles by one point, winning 35-34 (halftime 16-19) despite a second consecutive hat-trick of tries by Alshaun Bock for the Eagles in the Absa Currie Cup First Division match at Outeniqua Park in George on Friday.
Both sides scored five tries, but it was a break-away try from Marlou van Niekerk, two minutes from time, that sealed the match for the visitors.
The home side began strongly and almost opened the scoring in the first minute through Christo du Plessis. The flanker was bundled into touch just short of the line by Dwayne Kelly, a brilliant piece of cover defence by the Kings scrumhalf.
But the Eagles did not take long to get on the scoreboard with last week’s hat-trick hero, Bock, racing past six defenders to score his seventh try of the season. Jeff Taljard converted the try to give the hosts a seven point lead.
Dukisa Ntabeni slotted a penalty for the Kings after 13 minutes when the Eagles were caught offside just five metres from their own tryline.
But four minutes later, Ntabeni was slow to clear the ball inside his own 22-metre area as Taljard charged down his attempted clearence and went in under the posts, giving the hosts a 14-3 lead, after converting his own try.
Ntabeni struggled with the boot, missing a penalty attempt either side of narrowing the score to 14-6. But 12 minutes before the break, the Eagles went over for their third try through Shaun Raubenheimer.
But the flanker’s try was made by Du Plessis, who offloaded brilliantly to Bock, who raced down the left hand touchline.
The ball was flung to right side of the field, with some slick handling by the home side’s backline, which enabled the flanker to score. Taljard missed the conversion with the hosts leading 19-6.
The final 10 minutes of the first half saw the visitors come back strongly with tries from Mpho Mbiyozo and Aidon Davis after Du Plessis had received a yellow card for collapsing the maul, just after the team received a general warning. Ntabeni missed both conversions as the Kings went into the break 16-19 down.
The home side secured their bonus point for scoring four tries when Bock went over for his second try, giving the Eagles an eight point lead as Taljard missed the conversion.
But Ntabeni made up for his erratic kicking by breaking through a gap and offloading fantastically to Siviwe Soyizwapi to saunter in under the posts. Van Niekerk took over the kicking duties and converted the try to bring the Kings to within one point.
Four minutes later, Justin van Staden, the Eagles fullback, sliced his way through the Kings’ defence from inside his own 22-metre area, only to be brought down inside the Kings half, Bock received the ball from the ruck and spotted a gaping hole behind the defence and kicked the ball through.
The left wing chased his own kick and dotted down for his ninth try in four matches. Taljard converted the try to re-establish the hosts’ eight point lead.
Van Staden converted a penalty for the Eagles from 45 metres out to extend the lead to 11 points with only 10 minutes left in the match. Two minutes later, Mbiyozo went over for his second try of the match from a rolling maul after the Eagles were penalised for collapsing a maul from the previous lineout. Van Niekerk missed the conversion to leave the visitors six points adrift.
With just two minutes left, the Eagles were pressing for their sixth try when the Kings counter rucked the Eagles off the ball just inches from their own tryline.
The ball was thrown to Eben Barnard, who broke through a tackle and raced down the centre of the field, and then offloaded to Van Niekerk to go over under the posts. Kayle van Zyl slotted the conversion to edge the Kings in front for the first time in the match.
The Eagles will be gutted by this loss, after leading for most of the match, yet they themselves snatched victory from the jaws of defeat last week when they pipped the Valke by a solitary point.
The Kings continue their good away form and remain undefeated away from home in two matches, while they have yet to register a win at home this season.
EAGLES – Tries: Alshaun Bock (3), Jeff Taljard, Shaun Raubenheimer; Conversions: Taljard (3); Penalty: Justin van Staden
KINGS – Try: Mpho Mbiyozo (2), Aidon Davies, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Marlou van Niekerk; Conversion: Van Niekerk, Kayle van Zyl; Penalties: Dukisa Ntabeni (2)