Port Elizabeth - The EP Kings grabbed their first win of the season to end the Steval Pumas’ semifinal hopes courtesy of a 26-25 (halftime 19-17) in their Absa Currie Cup match at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Friday night.
The hosts were deserved winners as they ran in four tries to three to secure their only win of the season in their last game.
The Pumas had needed to win the match with a bonus point to have any chance of securing a semifinal place although they would have needed other results on the weekend to have gone in their favour.
The Pumas’ efforts in the first half were hampered by the two yellow-cards that they received, the first of which, shown to lock Lubabalo Mtyanda for cynical play in the 12th minute, gave the Kings an opportunity to open their account.
Scrumhalf Tobie Botes broke down the blindside before ducking his way under a tackle on his way to an unconverted try.
The visitors responded with a penalty from flyhalf Justin van Staden but as the match entered the second quarter the hosts struck once again when a sniping break from Bots and some slick handling set up right wing Ronnie Cook who powered his way over in the corner.
The Pumas received their second yellow card, when wing Rosko Specman was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle with 13 minutes left in the half and the Kings took almost immediate advantage as flank Paul Schoeman was mauled over for a converted try.
The Kings had eased to a 19-3 but the Pumas, despite still only having 14 men on the field, kept themselves in the contest and, four minutes before the break they took the ball through nine phases before hooker Frank Herne dived over from close range.
The gap was down to just two points shortly before the break after a quick tap from Specman, on the Kings’ 10-metre, eventually resulted in Van Staden slicing through a gaping gap in the host’s defence to score a try which he converted himself.
The Pumas took the lead, for the first time in the match, five minutes after the restart, through an excellent try after an incisive break from Specman on the Kings’ 10-metre line.
The wing carried to ball to within five metre of the tryline before off -loading to inside centre Stefan Watermeyer who scored in the tackle.
The visitors extended their lead with a 65th minute penalty from Van Staden but it was the hosts that were dominating territory and possession with only some fine defending from the Pumas keeping them in front.
However, the pressure told and, with six minutes left in the game, the Kings narrowed the gap to one point after fullback Scott van Breda ran through to gather a grubber from inside centre Shane Gates and score in the right-hand corner.
Flyhalf Gary van Aswegan kicked the touchline conversion as EP edged in to the lead that they managed to hold onto to rescue something from a disappointing campaign.
EP Kings – Tries: Tobie Botes, Ronnie Cook, Paul Schoeman, Scott van Breda; Conversions: Gary van Aswegan (3).
Steval Pumas – Tries: Frankie Herne, Justin van Staden, Stefan Watermeyer; Conversions: Van Staden (2); Penalties: Van Staden (2).