The Xerox Golden Lions condemned the EP Kings to their fourth consecutive loss courtesy of hard-fought 41-22 (halftime 21-19) win in their Absa Currie Cup match at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The loss was hard on the Kings, who held a two-point lead shortly after the start of the second half, but was a vast improvement on the 60-19 loss they had suffered at the hands of the Lions earlier in the season.
Fullback Ruan Combrinck kicked 16 points as the win moved the Lions to second on the log, three points behind DHL Western Province.
The Lions made a flying start to the match and they opened the scoring in the third minute after some superb build-up play that saw them take the ball through 20 phases before flank Jaco Kriel burrowed his way over for a converted try.
The Kings launched a few unsuccessful attacks but it was the visitors who scored next after they opted to set up an attacking line-out from a kickable penalty.
Tighthead prop Ruan Dreyer was on hand to muscle his way over for a converted score from the lineout as the Golden Lions eased to a 14-0 lead after 18 minutes.
The Kings finally hit back when they were awarded a penalty try, in the 28th minute, after Golden Lions’ wing Lionel Mapoe was adjudged to have entered a maul from the side with the Kings just short of the visitors' tryline.
Mapoe earned himself a yellow card for his transgression as the hosts narrowed the gap to seven points.
The scores were level five minutes later when inside centre Shane Gates chased through a deft chip from flyhalf George Whitehead to score a converted try as the Kings made use of their numerical advantage.
However, the Golden Lions struck back after another attacking line-out saw loosehead prop Schalk van der Merwe take an inside pass from pivot Andries Coetzee to crash over from five metres out with four minutes left in the half.
But it was to be the Kings who would have the last laugh in the topsy-turvy half after wing Siviwe Soyizwapi slid over in the left-hand corner after a silky backline move from the hosts. The missed conversion left the Kings trailing 21-19 at the break.
The hosts took the lead for the first time in the match, five minutes after the restart, when Whitehead popped over a close-range drop goal.
The Kings were playing with far more fluency in the second half and they were more than happy to sling the ball around as they probed for any gaps in the Golden Lions’ defence.
Despite the Kings dominating possession it was the Gauteng side that scored next as Combrinck slotted a 61st minute penalty to regain the lead for the visitors.
Combrinck added to the lead with another penalty three minutes later before the Golden Lions wrapped up the win, and the bonus-point try, when lock Franco Mostert crashed over from close range with 10 minutes left in the contest.
Lions scrumhalf Ross Cronje was shown a yellow card with seven minutes left before a late try from replacement forward Derick Minnie added some gloss to the score line for the visitors.
EP Kings – Tries: Penalty Try, Shane Gates, Siviwe Soyizwapi; Conversion: Scott van Breda (2); Drop goal: George Whitehead.
Xerox Golden Lions – Tries: Jaco Kriel, Ruan Dreyer, Schalk van der Merwe, Franco Mostert, Derick Minnie; Conversions: Ruan Combrinck (5); Penalties: Combrinck (2).