The EP Kings were made to sweat as they edged to a 30-23 (half-time 17-20) victory over the Valke in an Absa Currie Cup First Division rugby match at NMB stadium in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
The result was in the balance for the final 10 minutes and the game could have gone either way with the Valke producing a fighting performance which actually saw the bottom-of-the-log team leading at the break.
The Kings will be relieved to have edged closer to securing a home semifinal berth but it was hardly a convincing performance from a team placed second on the standings. There were lost lineouts, handling errors and some poor judgment calls but in the end they got the four log points.
The Valke deserve credit for the way they spoiled to great effect in the first half and they were also solid on defence after conceding two early tries.
Both of those tries were scored by Kings flank Stefan Willemse and both came via a lineout wins and drives. The first was scored as early as the second minute and fullback Scott van Breda slotted the conversion.
The Valke replied with penalty by fullback Kyle Hendricks three minutes later. But when Willemse scored his second try in the 12th minute and Van Breda added another conversion, the Kings looked to be setting themselves up for a big one.
However, the Valke were not about to roll over and play dead and when Kings lock Steven Sykes was sin-binned on the half hour they stepped up their attack and took advantage of their numerical advantage. Hendricks kicked the penalty which resulted from Sykes's card to narrow the gap to 14-6.
But it was the two tries the Valke scored while Sykes was off the field just before halftime which stunned the Kings. The first was a breakaway effort by right wing Sandile Ngcobo after 32 minutes and the other was scored by flyhalf Jaco Oosthuizen after a charge-down.
Hendricks kicked both conversions while Van Breda added a penalty to take the sides into the break with the Valke having a three-point advantage.
If the Kings were not worried going into the break they would have been when Hendricks succeeded with a penalty four minutes after the restart to extend their lead to 23-17.
But Van Breda kicked a penalty of his own and then, on 53 minutes, Kings captain and centre Tiger Mangweni rounded off a superb passage of play from the home side with a try under the poles after they had moved the ball through several phases across the field. Van Breda was on target with the conversion as the Kings regained the lead.
Matters could have gotten worse for the Valke when prop Brendan Rams was yellow-carded midway through the second half. But they soldiered on and defended like tigers and did well not to concede any points while Rams was serving his 10 minutes.
The Kings applied some serious pressure in the final 10 minutes and although they struggled to break the Valke defence they did go further ahead to secure the win through a Van Breda penalty.
EP Kings - Tries: Stefan Willemse (2), Tiger Mangweni; Conversions: Scott van Breda (3); Penalties: Scott van Breda (3).
Valke - Tries: Sandile Ngcobo, Jaco Oosthuizen; Conversions: Kyle Hendricks (2); Penalties: Kyle Hendricks (3).