Kings leave it too late
Gavin Rich
December 01, 2018

Isuzu Southern Kings captain JC Astle summed it up when he described his team’s effort in a 22-19 defeat to Benetton at Madibaz Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday night as a case of “too little too late”.

The visitors from Italy were comfortably ahead for most fo the game and looked to have squeezed the Kings out of it when they held a comfortable lead with half an hour to go. In truth, they were comfortable, for the Kings never really threatened them, but a late flurry of scoring gave the Kings some respectability on the scoreboard and a bonus point for losing by less than seven.

The Kings weren’t in the game in the first half, with the visitors from Italy dominating most areas of the game, and standing firm on defence when the Eastern Cape side did have the ball. To put it simply, Benetton just gave the Kings very little space to breathe and to get into the game.

While the Kings did enjoy a lead just after the 10 minute mark when Tertius Kruger crossed for the first of his brace of tries and Kings flyhalf Masixole Banda succeeded where his opposite number Ian McKinley had failed five minutes earlier by converting the try, they were mostly chasing the game.

Hame Faiva scored a hattrick of tries in that opening 40 minute period to propel his team into a 17-7 lead. He later correctly credited his try scoring feat to the forwards.

“I have to give it to the forwards, they set it all up,” he said.

However in the second half the Kings enjoyed quite a bit of the game, particularly in the last quarter. Unfortunately though for them, they had too much ground to make up, and they didn't help themselves by conceding the first points of the second half to a brilliant try from Benetton wing Monty Iaone.

It was gem of a try, with Ioane plucking the ball in one hand from beyond the touchline as he tried to keep balance and then somehow managing to keep his feet in play as he juggled the ball while squeezing through the remaining Kings defenders just millimetres in from the left touchline.

McKinley’s failed conversion meant he had only a one out of four success rate on the night and it is what kept the Kings in the game. Not that their chance of winning was ever really realistic, for that score ensured they had a 15 point deficit to make up. When the Kings’ second try did come it was with just six minutes to go, replacement prop Luvuyo Pupuma being the man to touch down.

The Kings had an eight point deficit to make up then as they went into the last five minutes, and too much of that time was wasted in their own territory as Benetton kept them pinned back by dominating at the contact points. However, a brilliant break from Harlon Klaasen, on as a replacement, led to a 70 metre breakout that eventually led to Kruger, who looks the part in the midfield, crossing for his second try.

The hooter had already sounded, so the attempted conversion, which was missed by Ulrich Beyers, didn’t matter - it just made the difference between a solitary point defeat and the eventual losing margin of three. Still, it was another of those games where the Kings would have ended it asking the "what if" question. On the evidence of their last few matches, the answer might lie in what they do before halftime, for they tend to be stronger in the second.


Benetton 22 - Tries: Hame Faiva 3 and Monty Ioane; Conversion: Ian McKinley.

Isuzu Southern Kings 19 - Tries: Tertius Kruger 2 and Luvuyo Pupuma; Conversions: Masixole Banda.

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