Eto Nabuli dots down for one of his two tries for the Reds as Kings flyhalf Lionel Cronjé is too late to stop him. Photo: Dan Peled, EPA

PORT ELIZABETH – There is no doubt that the Southern Kings know how to score tries. But if they could sort out their defence, they could become truly competitive in Super Rugby.

The Eastern Cape outfit ran in five scintillating touchdowns, but conceded seven to the Reds in a 47-34 defeat in Brisbane on Saturday.

A small consolation is the fact that the Kings denied the Queenslanders a try bonus point – the new rules require you to score three tries more than your opponents.

But that was scant reward for another entertaining display by the men from Port Elizabeth, who played with great finesse on attack that stretched the leaky Reds defence out wide and up the middle.

The Kings scrum was also under enormous pressure throughout the 80 minutes, and it told early on as they buckled at a five-metre scrum that saw the Reds shove them off their own ball, and the tighthead resulted in left wing Eto Nabuli bursting over as he handed off Yaw Penxe.

The Kings worked their way back into the game and nearly got on to the scoreboard in the ninth minute when exciting left wing Makazole Mapimpi got over the line, but he was held up by opposite number Izaia Perese.

Soon after that, an attacking lineout five metres from the Reds’ line was wasted by the Kings as hooker Mike Willemse threw it over the top and the hosts cleared.

The visitors eventually got going when Penxe showed off his wide array of skills with a perfect grubber that sat up for fiery openside flank Chris Cloete to dot down.

Cloete was a handful at the breakdowns too in his head-to-head duel with veteran fetcher George Smith, who was playing in his 150th Super Rugby match.

Cloete made a number of big hits in defence, and slowed down the Reds’ ball effectively, but he didn’t have much support from the rest of the forwards.

But with flyhalf Quade Cooper pulling the strings, the Reds finding holes in midfield and out wide. It was just a matter of time before they regained the lead, with fullback Karmichael Hunt rounding off smartly after a number of phases in the 29th minute.

The Kings, though, kept plugging away, and a yellow card to Reds centre Duncan Paia’aua for a shoulder charge led to Lionel Cronjé slotting a penalty to bring his team to within four points of the lead at half-time (14-10).

Reds coach Nick Stiles probably did some hard talking at the break, as his side came out with serious intent for the second half, blitzing the Kings with five tries in 21 minutes to shoot into a 47-17 lead.

The Kings’ defence let them down several times in those moves, with Reds wing Perese running in a double.

Coach Deon Davids would’ve been pleased with the Kings’ finish, though, as wing Makazole Mapimpi scored a brace and fullback Masixole Banda also displayed his electric pace for a five-pointer.

With all their inventiveness with ball-in-hand, the Kings could’ve pulled off a victory at the Suncorp Stadium if their one-on-one tackling had been more effective.

Points-Scorers

Reds 47 – Tries: Eto Nabuli (2), Karmichael Hunt (2), George Smith, Izaia Perese (2). Conversions: Quade Cooper (6).

Kings 34  Tries: Chris Cloete, Louis Schreuder, Makazole Mapimpi (2), Masixole Banda. Conversions: Lionel Cronjé (2), Pieter-Steyn de Wet (1). Penalty: Cronjé (1).

African News Agency (ANA)