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Rugby | Vodacom Cup

Burton Francis © Gallo Images

EP Kings suffer first loss



The Eastern Province Kings suffered their first defeat of the Vodacom Cup when the Golden Lions beat them 11-10 (halftime 10-8) in a drama-filled match played at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Friday night.

The 3 000 spectators, although ultimately disappointed with the result, could however never accuse the two teams of not giving them their money’s worth!

The game had everything -- red cards, yellow cards, punch-ups, serious injuries, and, yes, even some exciting rugby at times from both sides.

It certainly wasn’t a night to remember for EP skipper De Wet Barry, whose comeback game after shoulder surgery lasted just 20 minutes before he was forced to leave the field having injured the same shoulder in a tackle.

As if that weren’t enough to disrupt the home side, they were forced to play with 14 men from the 33rd minute onwards after skipper Mzwandile Stick was red-carded following a scuffle with Lions back Marius Delport.

Delport appeared to pull Stick’s dreadlocked hair, which sparked a scuffle, but when the dust settled it was Stick who was shown red while Delport received a yellow card only for his role in the incident.

Then, just when it seemed things couldn’t get any worse, Barry’s centre partner, Matthew Tayler-Smith, was stretchered off in the 70th minute with what looked like a serious leg injury.

The Lions, too, weren’t without disruption, losing loosie Jonathan Mokuena to injury after only 20 minutes in what was a highly physical affair reminiscent of days gone by in these parts.

There was also some rugby played, mind you, with the Lions opening up an 8-0 lead at the break thanks to a penalty in the 25th minute by flyhalf Burton Francis and a 38th-minute try in the corner by left wing Dusty Noble, created by the excellent Jannie Boshoff inside him.

Although Francis eventually kicked the winnings points with a second penalty late in the game, he endured a horrible night with the boot, missing three penalties and a conversion in the first half and another two penalties in the second.

For EP, new signing Clint Newland, the former NZ Maori and Highlanders prop, celebrated his arrival with a try on debut, while flyhalf Jaco van Schalkwyk kicked the conversion as well as a penalty.

Trailing by eight points at the break, the Kings came out for the second half with more gusto, with flanker Boetie Brits having a blinder. But the hosts, as they did in the first half, just could not hold onto the ball in contact.

Lions hooker Martin Bezuidenhout was yellow-carded for punching in the 50th minute and this allowed EP to get back into the match by mauling Newland over the line four minutes later.

Van Schalkwyk added the extra points before giving them the lead in the 63rd minute with a penalty.

But Francis managed to get his radar working for the shot that mattered, a 65th-minute penalty that separated the sides.

Scorers:

EP Kings 10 – Try: Clint Newland. Conversion: Jaco van Schalkwyk. Penalty: Van Schalkwyk.

Golden Lions 11 – Try: Dusty Noble, Penalties: Burton Francis.

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