There was unbridled joy for the Isuzu Southern Kings in the Guinness PRO14 on Saturday as they made history by registering their first away win in the competition and their first win of the season against Ospreys in Swansea, while ill-discipline saw the Toyota Cheetahs suffer their third defeat in a row, as they went down to the Cardiff Blues.
The Isuzu Southern Kings held on for a narrow 16-14 victory in atrocious weather at the Liberty Stadium to record a morale boosting win, while the Cardiff Blues overcame a Toyota Cheetahs team reduced to 14 men after 15 minutes of play for a 30-17 victory at Cardiff Arms Park.
The Port Elizabeth side held a 13-0 lead at the break thanks to an excellent try rounded off by Erich Cronje (centre) and some good place-kicking by Scott van Breda (fullback). They extended their lead to 16 points with another penalty goal shortly after halftime, but the dominant Ospreys scrum placed the Isuzu Southern Kings under constant pressure after that.
Some determined defence, however, kept the Ospreys to just two tries, while Welsh international James Hook missed two potential match-winning penalty goals at the death, which saw the visitors claim the historic win.
“It is hard to put this into words,” said Isuzu Southern Kings coach Robbi Kempson. “It was an unbelievable effort from my boys. We got a bit of the rub of the green here and there, but the defensive effort and the way they dug in when Ospreys were throwing everything at them was just outstanding. I can’t fault a single player.”
He added: “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 a lot of injuries, particularly to front row players, and 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.”
Kempson admitted that he was on the edge of his seat when Hook lined up his two late penalty goals when his charges were trailing by two points, and had he slotted one of them over, it would have sealed the victory for the hosts.
“I have followed James Hook’s international career closely, and I was surprised when he missed the closer kick (with a minute to go). I was less convinced that he would have the legs for the long kick (in injury time).
“We got the lead because we did our homework on Ospreys, but then we went into our shells a bit.
“In fairness to 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.”
Kempson’s elation was juxtaposed with the disappointment that Toyota Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie felt after their defeat against the Cardiff Blues – a game which he felt the players allowed to slip.
The Free Staters were already under pressure and trailing 8-0 when No 8 Jasper Wiese was red-carded for leading with his shoulder in a clean-out at a ruck in the 15th minute.
“We were looking for a win, so it was very disappointing not to come away with a point from the game,” said Fourie.
“It makes it very difficult when you are playing most of the match with 14 men, and at one stage even with 13 players (after Gerhard Olivier was yellow-carded just before halftime for kicking the ball away).
“The Blues started 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 to score 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, which surrendered the initiative back to them.”