Southern Kings players. Photo: @SouthernKingsSA/Twitter

PORT ELIZABETH – The Southern Kings put in a spirited performance, but it wasn’t to be as Irish powerhouse Munster scored two late tries for a 31-20 victory to deny the team from the Eastern Cape their first Pro14 victory of the season.

Built on the back of a strong performance by their pack, especially in the scrums, and some good old “never say die” attitude, the Southern Kings pushed Munster hard, which forced an uncharacteristic high number of errors from the Irish visitors.

With 15 minutes to go and Munster leading by 17-13, the Southern Kings forced a number of penalties in the visitors’ 22, but the team coached by former Springbok assistant coach Johann van Graan, thwarted both lineout drives by the Eastern Cape side.

Five minutes later, Fineen Wycherley and Arno Botha had crashed over for two converted tries which all but sealed the win for Munster.

The game started with Munster hot on the attack and the Southern Kings made to withstand red wave after red wave early on, but finally, after 20 minutes, the gap opened and Mike Haley scored the first try of the match.

JJ Hanrahan’s conversion and earlier penalty goal pushed the visitors into a 10-3 lead, with Demetri Catrakilis getting the home team’s first points earlier.

Catrakilis added his second penalty goal a few minutes later and despite being on the backfoot for most of the first half, the Southern Kings were still in the contest.

The Kings got their hands on the ball a bit more in the second quarter, but over-eagerness and handling errors cost them. The same for the visitors though, who could easily have led by more than four points (10-6) at the break.

And they were made to rue this as the Southern Kings took the lead for the first time shortly after the restart when Stefan Ungerer rounded off a great move started by a great run by Masixole Banda.

This try seemed to galvanise the Kings, but sadly, with the home team hot on the attack, Munster got the ball, launched a counter-attack and after great supporting play, former All Black scrumhalf Alby Mathewson snuck over for their second try.

The Southern Kings worked their back into the Munster half, but the visitors stopped two lineout mauls after which Wycherley and Botha had the last say for the Irishmen, although Junior Springbok lock Elrigh Louw managed to pull back a late try for the men from PE.

Scorers:

Southern Kings 20 (6) – Tries: Stefan Ungerer, Elrigh Louw. Conversions: Demetri Catrakilis (2). Penalty goals: Catrakilis (2).

Munster 31 (10) – Tries: Mike Haley, Alby Mathewson, Fineen Wycherley, Arno Botha. Conversions: JJ Hanrahan (4). Penalty goal: Hanrahan.

African News Agency (ANA)