The EP Kings suffered a disappointing loss against the Toyota Free State XV in Cradock on Saturday, going tryless in a gruelling match that saw the end score of 3 to 31 in favour of the visiting Free Sate side.
The Kings put the first, and what was to be EP’s only points in the game, on the board with a penalty kick by George Whitehead.
While there were some good moments of play in the first half by the Kings, with a few opportunities that put the Kings close to the try line – including two great bits of running by Selvyn Davids and Sergeal Petersen respectively – they were simply unable to convert those opportunities into points.
The Free State XV however capitalised on their opportunities, and Teboho “Oupa” Mahole broke through the Kings defences to score the first try for the visiting side, with their captain, Neil Marais, converting.
Marais extended the lead shortly before half time with a converted penalty, ending the first half 7 points ahead with the score EP 3 to Free State 10.
A tough second half ensued, with the Kings looking to gain the upper hand, but simple errors and poor set piece cost them dearly, with a number of opportunities to add points on the board going begging.
In turn, the visiting team broke through the Kings defences near the 60 minute mark with a great bit of side stepping and pace by outside centre, Nico Lee, who dotted down between the posts. Marais converted, extending the lead to 3 – 17.
With the try shifting the momentum of the game, it wasn’t long before Free State broke through the Kings defences again, as substitute, Alvin Brandt also dotted down between the posts and Marais converted, taking Free State to 24.
The Kings fought back and managed to take the game back into Free State’s half, but were simply unable to turn possession into points.
Turnover ball in the dying minutes of the game saw the Free State back in the Kings half and Alvin Brandt crossed the try line for the second time, again converted by Marais, to bring the final score to EP Kings 3 to Free State XV 31.
Head Coach Mzwandile Stick said he was bitterly disappointed in the game, saying the team had let themselves and the spectators, who had come out in their thousands to watch the game, down.
The game had been the main event of the Cradock 200 Rugby Festival, part of the town’s celebrations of turning 200 years old.
“We had too many individuals playing on the field; we did not play as a team,” he said.
“We let opportunities pass us by and did not convert these into points, while the Free State used their opportunities and punished us when we made mistakes.”
Stick said that, while the possibility of making a quarter final in the competition now appeared out of reach for the team, he could not afford to think about log standings.
“Our focus now has to be on putting this loss behind us and focusing on what we can do differently to prepare for the next game,” he said.
The EP Kings play against SWD at Outeniqua Park in George on Friday, 4 April 2014, at 19:00.