The Isuzu Southern Kings and Toyota Cheetahs were left counting the cost of high penalty counts and unforced errors at crucial times in their Guinness PRO14 matches as both South African sides suffered narrow defeats against their visitors from Italy and Ireland on Saturday.
Benetton beat the Isuzu Southern Kings 22-19 in Port Elizabeth, while the Toyota Cheetahs went down 21-17 against Connacht in Bloemfontein.
The clash between the Isuzu Southern Kings and Benneton was entertaining as both teams showed innovation on attack and ran hard in the first half.
But while the hosts battled to create try-scoring chances, Benetton made good use of their opportunities, especially their rolling mauls. Such was the effectiveness of their mauls, Hame Faiva was rewarded with a hat-trick of tries in the first half.
The Isuzu Southern Kings, in turn, were only able to score one try in the half compliments of Tertius Kruger, who dashed through a small gap after receiving the ball from a rolling maul, which saw them trail 17-7 at halftime.
The home side remained composed after the break and found their rhythm as the match progressed, while they also managed to shut out Benetton’s rolling mauls. These efforts saw the Italians score only one try after the break, although that was enough to earn them a bonus point.
The Isuzu Southern Kings’ never-say-die attitude on attack, meanwhile, saw them cross the tryline twice in the dying minutes, as Luvuyo Pupuma crashed over after receiving the ball from a quick tap, while Kruger scored his second try after gathering a loose ball in the final movement of the match. This earned the home team a bonus point for their efforts.
In Bloemfontein, unforced errors were the story of the day for the Toyota Cheetahs, who went down against Connacht despite outscoring the visitors three tries to two and boasting 65% possession in the first half.
The hosts came close to Connacht’s tryline on several occasions, but poor passing and knock-ons denied them from converting their chances into points.
Connacht opened up the scoring with a try in the sixth minute, and added another in the 27th minute following an earlier penalty goal, which allowed them to build up a 15-0 lead.
The Toyota Cheetahs struck back with back-to-back tries by Malcolm Jaer and Joseph Dweba compliments of classy running and a rolling maul respectively, which allowed them to reduce the deficit to 15-10 going into the break.
Connacht stretched their lead to 21-10 early in the fourth quarter thanks to two penalty goals, but the hosts hit back with a try by Shaun Venter who crashed over after a fantastic break out wide.
This pushed the Toyota Cheetahs into a position to win the match, and they came within striking range of the tryline in the dying minutes, but a knock-on dashed their hopes of securing back-to-back victories.
In the other matches, Munster defeated Edinburgh 44-14 in Cork, Ospreys outplayed Zebre 43-0 in Swansea, Ulster held on for a 16-12 victory Cardiff Blues in Belfast, Leinster thumped the Dragons 59-10 in Newport, and the Glasgow Warriors beat the Scarlets 29-20 in Glasgow.
Results and scorers:
Isuzu Southern Kings 19 (7) Benetton 22 (17)
Isuzu Southern Kings – Tries: Tertius Kruger (2), Luvuyo Pupuma. Conversion: Masixole Banda.
Benetton – Tries: Hame Faiva (3), Monty Ioane. Conversion: Ian McKinley.
Toyota Cheetahs 17 (10) Connacht 21 (15)
Toyota Cheetahs – Tries: Malcolm Jaer, Joseph Dweba, Shaun Venter. Conversion: Tian Schoeman.
Connacht – Tries: Thomas Farrell, Gavin Thornbury. Conversion: Jack Carty. Penalty goals: Carty, David Horwitz (2).