There was unbridled joy for the Isuzu Southern Kings, who made history at the weekend by scoring their first-ever away win in the Guinness PRO14.
The Kings enjoyed a 13-0 lead at the break in a match played in steady rain thanks to an excellent try rounded off by centre Erick Cronje and some good place-kicking from fullback Scott van Breda, on loan from Worcester. But although the Kings extended the lead to 16 points with another penalty soon after halftime, the dominant Ospreys scrum meant the Kings were under constant pressure after that.
However, some determined defence kept the Ospreys to just two tries, while Welsh international James Hook missed two potential match winning penalties at the death.
“It is hard to put it in words, that was an unbelievable effort from my boys. We got a bit of the rub of the green here and there, but that defensive effort and the way they dug in when the Ospreys were throwing everything at them was just outstanding, I can’t fault a single player,” said Kings director of rugby Rob Kempson.
“We will enjoy this win as winning overseas has been a long time in coming. What was most encouraging about this performance was that it was achieved by a very young team with a few old guys mixed in. We’ve had lots of injuries, particularly to front row players. We don’t have a frontline loosehead prop for a start. But for them to hold onto that victory in conditions that South Africans really aren’t used to was commendable and I take my hat off to them.”
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Kempson admitted that he was biting his nails when Hook lined up his two late kicks which, with his team trailing by two points, would have given the hosts victory had they been successful.
“I’ve followed James Hook’s international career closely and was surprised when he missed the closer kick (with a minute to go) but was less convinced he’d have the legs for the long kick (in injury time),” said Kempson.
“We got the lead because we’d done our homework on the Ospreys but then we went into our shells a bit. In fairness to the Ospreys though they played the territory game really well and as I anticipated they had us under the pump in the set-pieces. Their scrum was outstanding. So for us to hold out to win in those circumstances was fantastic.”
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Kempson’s elation was juxtaposed with the disappointment that Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie felt at an opportunity that he felt his team had clearly let slip. The Cheetahs were already under pressure and trailing 8-0 when their No8 Jasper Wiese was red carded for leading with his shoulder in a clean-out in the 14th minute.
“We were looking for a win, so to not even get a point out of the game was very disappointing,” said Fourie.
“It makes it very difficult when you are playing much of the game with 14 and at one stage even 13 players (Gerhard Olivier was yellow carded just before halftime for kicking the ball away). The Blues began very well, they held onto the ball, and their multi-phase attacks put our defence under massive pressure.
“When the red card came I was already concerned as we were 8-0 behind and another score for them would have meant we were in for a long night. I am proud of the guys for showing character after the red card and coming back by scoring two tries. Unfortunately then we gave away two soft penalties just before halftime and they scored soon after the break when we were down to 13 men and that surrendered the initiative back to them.”
– PRO14 – Brendan Nel
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