The first-ever fixture between the Southern Kings and Benetton Rugby ended in victory for the Italian side when they triumphed 31-3 in a GUINNESSPRO14 championship played at the Stadio Comunale di Monigo in Treviso on Saturday, 7 October.
The match was a scrappy affair punctuated by shrill blasts from the whistle of referee Sean Gallagher who penalized the Kings heavily at the breakdown. This led to the hosts establishing a 9-0 lead and stout Kings defence was only breached late in the first half when Marco Barbini collected a cross-kick to score out wide for Benetton. With Pieter-Steyn De Wet able to slot a penalty for the Kings after some sustained pressure near the Benetton tryline, the halftime hooter sounded with the score at 14-3. Making matters even more difficult for the men from Port Elizabeth was the loss of wing Sibusiso Sithole to injury during the first half. Sithole damaged his knee in competing for a high ball and it is feared he may require surgery. He was replaced by Berton Klaasen.
The Southern Kings tried hard to get back into the game during the second half but were let down by an inability to finish promising moves. Their attempts to build pressure were also undone by conceding too many penalties, particularly at the breakdown, where they struggled to get to grips with referee Gallagher’s interpretation. Benetton added three more tries towards the end of the match and the final score was 31-3 to the home side.
Speaking post-match Southern Kings Head Coach Deon Davids rued a few missed opportunities by his charges. “I thought we defended well for large parts of the game but we need to be a little more composed on attack. If you don’t take your chances at this level then you end up getting punished and that’s what happened,” he said.
Davids also expressed concern at the number of penalties his team conceded: “We’ve improved that aspect of our game over the last few weeks but tonight we struggled to give the referee what he wanted to see at the breakdowns in particular. It is very frustrating because it stops you from gaining any momentum. We just have to learn to adapt. We’ve got a few weeks break now before our next fixture against Glasgow Warriors and that’s definitely one of the things we will be working on.”
The break until that fixture on 27 October will be a welcome one for the Kings players as it affords an opportunity to nurse bumps and bruises of which there are many in addition to the long-term injury sustained by Sithole. Highly-rated fullback Masixole Banda, who has been an ever-present in the side so far this campaign, is also likely to send a lengthy period of time on the sidelines after it was revealed that he had a suspected broken collar-bone.