Kings beat Griffons in 13-try thriller
The Eastern Province Kings scored seven tries but still had to hang on for a nailbiting 45-43 (halftime 21-10) win over the Griffons in a wildly entertaining Vodacom Cup match played at the North West Stadium in Welkom on Friday afternoon.
The visitors, who had to endure a long bus journey from Port Elizabeth via Bloemfontein, showed no ill-effects when they opened up a comfortable 11-point lead at the break.
The Griffons fought back manfully in the second half but the Kings looked to have put the matter beyond doubt when replacement flanker Jacques Potgieter scored his side’s sixth try with 15 minutes left to make it 38-17.
But those brave souls who decided to head home at that point missed a fantastic comeback that produced six tries in 13 minutes as both teams threw caution to the wind as the clock wound down.
The Kings scored three early tries as they asserted their dominance up front, where prop Jaco Engels and lock Barend Pieterse, who would finish with two tries, did sterling work.
But it was left wing Siyanda Grey, wearing the No 14 jersey, who scooted through for the first try in the 10th minute after a break in midfield by centre Wayne Stevens.
Flyhalf Jaco van Schalkwyk added the extra points before Griffons fullback Tiaan van Wyk made it 7-3 with a penalty in the 17th minute.
Pieterse was on hand to take a clean lineout ball three minutes later, following the yellow-carding of Griffons wing Shane Hancke for an illegal tackle, which saw flanker Devin Oosthuizen rumbling over from the resultant drive.
Van Schalkwyk again made no mistake with the conversion, but the home side showed some of their famous fighting spirit when centre Thabang Molefe capitalised on some very poor EP midfield defence to cut through a gap and dot down under the posts.
Van Wyk kicked the two extra points, but Pieterse claimed his team’s third try on the half hour when, from another drive, he popped up on the right-hand touchline to flop over unopposed.
The Griffons fought their way back again when flying wing Ricardo Pietersen produced an excellent piece of individual brilliance in the 47th minute to run in from 75 metres.
Van Wyk made it a four-point game with the conversion but the Kings came straight back with a second try, scored in identical fashion to his first, by Oosthuizen.
The Griffons were then thrown a curveball by the rugby gods when Pietersen intercepted near his own line to race clear once more – only to pull a hamstring with the line at his mercy!
It proved to be a 14-point swing, and instead of hanging on to a 26-24 lead the Kings went down the other end of the field and scored again through Pieterse to make it 31-17.
Replacement Potgieter then looked to have put the matter beyond doubt with 15 minutes left when he rounded off a counter-attack down the left-hand touchline to register his team’s sixth try.
Another replacement, Japie Nel, got one back for the Griffons when he barged through from close range for Van Wyk to convert, before Molefe’s second a minute later really set the cat amongst the pigeons.
Prop Kevin Stevens then had the crowd on their feet with one of the best tries of the competition when he rounded off another long-range counter-attack to make it 38-34.
Flyhalf Tertius Maarman, who took over the kicking from Van Wyk, made it a two-point game with the conversion.
But Grey scored his second just a minute later to complete a wild scoring sequence of five tries in nine minutes!
Veteran Hancke then made it a sixth try in just 13 minutes when he dived over in the left-hand corner, with Maarman kicking the points to make it 45-43 and leave the home team painfully short of what would have been a spectacular come-from-behind victory.
Griffons 43 – Tries: Thabang Molefe (2), Ricardo Pietersen, Japie Nel, Kevin Stevens, Shane Hancke. Conversions: Tiaan van Wyk (2), Tertius Maarman (3). Penalty: Van Wyk.
EP Kings 45 – Tries: Siyanda Grey (2), Devin Oosthuizen (2), Barend Pieterse (2), Jacques Potgieter. Conversions: Jaco van Schalkwyk (3), Monty Dumond (2).