All tied up between Kings and Dragons

Round 19 of the Guinness Pro14 kicked off in the Nelson Mandela University Madibaz’s Stadium on Sunday 7 April, when the Isuzu Southern Kings hosted the Dragons from Wales in Port Elizabeth. Despite the massive traffic delays caused by the Ironman competition happening around the stadium at the same time, the match kicked off in perfect conditions.

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JC Astle of the Kings takes down Adam Warren of the Dragons as he attempts to get around him. Photo: Stephen Kisbey-Green

The Kings were looking for revenge for their earlier round defeat to the Dragons in September 2018, this time hoping the home field advantage would remain a factor.

The Kings’ poor handling cost them early on, as a counter attack was turned into a solid attacking opportunity for the Dragons. Adam Warren benefitted from a well-placed cross kick, scoring in the corner. Josh Lewis missed the conversion, but the Dragons remained in firm control of the match early on. The visitors bossed the possession and territory stats in the opening stages, and looked in control as the first half continued.

It took fifteen minutes for the Kings to get on the scoreboard, through Stefan Ungerer crashing over from the base of a ruck. The heavy wind coming off the ocean caused an issue for the kickers, as Masixole Banda missed his first kick of the match, however the Kings looked to get into the lead. This happened almost immediately after, as Bjorn Basson regathered a clever grubber in behind the Dragons’ defence, to score. Banda could not find the uprights again, however, and it was a two-point game halfway through the first half.

As the half dragged on, the Kings started to look more and more confident. A quick line break was quickly snuffed out by the Kings’ cover defence, and they began to control the territory and possession of the match throughout the remaining minutes of the first half. As the half time hooter sounded in the stadium, the Kings wanted to extend their lead. Their lack of composure, however, meant that they coughed up the ball in a promising position, and they went into halftime 13-8 ahead.

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Tienie Burger (Kings) lines up Matthew Screech on attack, looking to power through the Dragons defense. Photo: Stephen Kisbey-Green

The Kings extended their lead after weathering a solid phase of attack from the Dragons, when Harlon Klaasen received the ball out wide and crossed over in the corner. The try went unconverted, and the Dragons immediately applied pressure to the Kings’ tryline from the restart. Midway through the second half, the visitors added to their tally, through a break from Jordan Williams, who scored under the posts. Josh Lewis converted, and the tight contest drew even tighter halfway through the final half of home rugby for the Kings.

Both teams fell to into ill-discipline as the intensity of the match increased. Both the Kings and Dragons were shown two yellow cards each throughout the course of the half, as the tempers frayed due to the tightness of the contest. As the teams entered the final ten minutes of the match, the Kings remained in the lead by three points.

This changed, however, as Lewis slotted a penalty with just two minutes left on the clock. Both teams looked to pull away in the dying minutes, however a knock on from the Kings would see the result remain as an 18-18 draw in the Madibaz Stadium.

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