Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Johannesburg - The win over the Rebels in the last match in Melbourne turned what was already a good debut Super Rugby tour for the Kings into a “fantastic” one, director of rugby Alan Solomons told the supersport.com website
A Demetri Catrakilis drop-goal after the hooter saw the Kings win 30-27 against the Rebels as they traversed yet another barrier in what has been an epic start in Super Rugby for the fledgling franchise that was only officially informed it would be participating in August last year.
In February the Kings became the first new franchise to win an opening game in Super Rugby when they beat the Western Force, and the draw and win against the Brumbies and Rebels respectively ensured that the Kings won’t have the long wait that some other South African franchises had in the past to record their first successes overseas.
The Kings were predictably beaten by some margin in their two matches on New Zealand soil but they can return to South Africa boasting that they are unbeaten in Australia. Not that the Kings will be in a boastful mood, for as always, they appeared to end the Rebels game determined to keep their feet on the ground and recognise that the battle is still far from won.
And coach Matt Sexton took on the right tone when, in the press release sent out by the Kings after the Rebels match, he focused on where it nearly went wrong against the Rebels rather than getting carried away with the result.
“Of course we’re exceptionally happy with the four log points, and the overall result, but we battled in the middle of the game,” said head coach Matt Sexton.
Indeed, they did, and for a while it looked as though the Rebels might end up dishing out a hiding, for in the second 20 minutes of the first half and the first 20 minutes of the second half, there was really only one team on the field. The Kings were forced to defend desperately as the Rebels recovered from a 14-0 deficit to take a 27-17 lead.
Full marks to the Kings for the massive character they again showed for it looked for all the world as if they were out on their feet and falling victim to the dreaded last match on tour syndrome. But with the determined Bulls due to visit Port Elizabeth this coming weekend, and the expectation of the public probably shifting ever so slightly now that the team has a few wins under the belt, Sexton is probably right to be concerned, particularly about the silly errors and the penalties conceded that give momentum to the opposition.
In a nutshell, the Kings are going to have to find a way to ensure they are able to hold onto possession for longer, for the landslide stats that were against them in the possession and consequently the territorial battle led to the Rebels racking up 27 points against seven in the middle 40 minutes of the game.
“The problem is that we perhaps had too much of a good start and the guys took their foot off the gas and relaxed a little, which allowed the momentum to sway in the Rebels favour,” said Sexton.
“We have got to learn to keep the pressure on, but this is also a learning curve for us and this was another lesson learnt.”
Solomons echoed Sexton’s sentiments.
“We lost momentum and eased off after the first ten minutes or so, and our exiting our own half was poor, we gave away too many penalties which meant we made work for ourselves,” he said.
“(But) a win when you’re not playing well, that says a lot about the team,” he added. “Before this it was already a good tour, but the win has turned it into a fantastic tour.”