PORT ELIZABETH – PRO 14 Rugby’s debut in South Africa began with more of a whimper than a bang as Dublin’s finest crushed the Kings 31-10 in a low-key match played in a front of an almost non-existent crowd at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday afternoon.
The Irish side had problems at Oliver Tambo Airport even before they entered the country when four of their players were sent home because they did not have visas, and the game’s lack of stature just seemed to go down from there.
To the fair to the Kings, they are rebuilding from scratch in Pro 14 after almost all of their best players signed contracts with local Super Rugby teams before the Pro 14 deal was struck, and the squad they have fielded so far in the Northern Hemisphere competition is trying to rebuild on its feet.
In a fortnight overseas they were soundly beaten, and it was no different in Port Elizabeth when Leinster scored five tries to one on their maiden visit to South Africa.
In the first half, the Irishmen seemed like fish out of water in front of an empty Stadium having been used for so long to packed stadiums in the North.
The Kings did their best to keep a much stronger team at bay while having almost no questions to pose on attack.
In fact, Masixole Banda scored the first points of the match with a penalty goal but that was just about it from the Kings, who spent the rest of the match defending and could only add a consolation at the death through Jacques Nel.
The Irish side did their best to muster discipline and composure and do what had to be done, ultimately getting out of town with the bonus-point win.
It was just 7-3 to the visitors at half-time after inside centre Noel Reid had scored, converted by flyhalf Ross Byrne.
The Kings had been unable to probe the Leinster defence in the first half, and that did not change.
The visitors started the second half on fire and centre Rory O’Loughlin scored five minutes into the half, unconverted, with No 8 Jack Conan five minutes later scoring after unrelenting pressure, and it was 19-3 after 50 minutes.
When three minutes later fullback Joey Carberry scored and Byrne converted to make it 26-3, a hiding was on the cards.
Wing Dave Kearney scored eight minutes from time to complete the rout, although there would be a consolation try by Nel for the hosts to give the score a degree of respectability.
Kings 10 (3) – Try: Jacques Nel. Penalty: Masixole Banda. Conversion: Banda
Leinster 31 (7) – Tries: Noel Reid, Rory O’Loughlin, Jack Conan, Joey Carberry, Dave Kearney. Conversions: Ross Byrne (3).
African News Agency