SWANSEA – Two yellow cards within five minutes proved costly in the end for the Southern Kings as a gallant effort to break their PRO14 duck was staved off by the Ospreys in a 26-12 defeat at the Liberty Stadium on Friday night.
The Kings were leading 12-7 for around 40 minutes until disaster struck when replacement prop Johan Smith – who had replaced Schalk Ferreira a minute earlier – was penalised for collapsing a scrum five metres from his own line in the 69th minute.
Sustained pressure from the Welsh side saw referee David Wilkinson lost patience with the Eastern Cape team and trotted to the posts to award the penalty try and an automatic seven points.
That turnaround saw the Ospreys move into a 14-12 lead, and any chance the Kings had of a late comeback was ended when Wilkinson harshly yellow-carded replacement flank Eital Bredenkamp for hands in the ruck – which was arguably a penalty at worst.
And when a second penalty try was given in injury time – with the seven-man Kings scrum going backwards again – it meant that the Kings missed out on a losing bonus point as well after 15 consecutive defeats, with the bonus-point try for the Ospreys coming through wing Jeff Hassler soon after that.
The Kings deserved much more, and the loss would’ve been a bitter pill to swallow for Kings coach Deon Davids, as his team put an honest night’s work, especially in defence.
There would’ve been a sense of déjà vu, though, for the Kings when Ospreys scrumhalf Tom Habberfield was allowed to score the opening try in the 14th minute too easily off a five-metre scrum.
The normally-accurate Kings goal-kicker, fullback Masixole Banda, proceeded to miss a penalty for the first time this season.
But their fortunes changed in the 22nd minute, and it was all sparked by the outstanding loose forward Andisa Ntsila.
Operating in the No 6 jersey on this occasion, the versatile Ntsila burst up the middle from inside his own half, and had the wherewithal to find centre Luzuko Vulindlu, who put left wing Michael Makase over for the touchdown.
Ntsila was prominent throughout, carrying the ball powerfully, being a menace at the breakdowns and strong in defence.
Such was his performance that he was voted by the Welsh commentators as the Man of the Match, despite being on the losing side and having been replaced after 61 minutes.
Ntsila was well supported by flank partner Tienie Burger, who was tireless on defence, as the Kings pack of forwards climbed in at the breakdowns.
Their endeavour was rewarded in the 32nd minute when they drove impressively from a five-metre lineout, and captain and hooker Michael Willemse scored.
The @SouthernKingsSA have staged a brilliant first-half turnaround ↩️
Michael Willemse is powered over 💪 the whitewash and the South African side lead 12-7 in Wales vs @ospreys!
📺 Watch it on @BBCSportWales or @SuperSportTV.#OSPvKIN #GUINNESSPRO14 pic.twitter.com/7asrBjepA8
The Ospreys came roaring back, though, with classy flyhalf Sam Davies pulling the strings. The hosts camped inside the Kings 22 before halftime, but were repelled by courageous defence.
It was much the same story for the second half, with the Kings tackling with all their might. But they were eventually out on their feet, and the yellow card to Smith was the start of the Ospreys comeback.
The first penalty try for a collapsed Kings scrum came in the 76th minute, and it was a repeat a few minutes later that put the Ospreys 21-12 up, before Hassler beat four defenders to grab the bonus point.
Ospreys 26 – Try: Tom Habberfield, Penalty Try (2), Jeff Hassler. Conversion: Sam Davies (1).
Southern Kings 12 – Tries: Michael Makase, Michael Willemse. Conversion: Martin du Toit (1).
African News Agency (ANA)