The EP Kings overturned a 21-point deficit to snatch a 26-26 draw (half-time 5-16) with the Ford Pumas in their Absa Currie Cup First Division match at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
The log-leading Kings had won 11 matches and drawn one heading into the clash with the Pumas but they looked down and out as they slid to 26-5 down in the 55th minute. It was the second draw between the two teams this season after a 30-30 draw in the reverse fixture.
The hosts, despite being down to 14 men for much of the match found a second wind to run in three tries in the last 23 minutes of the game, with eighthman Luke Watson grabbing two five-pointers, to secure what had looked like an unlikely draw.
Pumas flyhalf JC Roos kicked 16 points courtesy of two conversions and four penalties for the visitors, while he also played a major role in the first try of the match.
The Kings did not help themselves with some poor discipline with right wing Paul Perez red carded in the first half for punching while lock David Bulbring picked up a yellow card for stamping but they showed great character to fight back despite the setbacks.
The Pumas began the game the brighter of the two sides and it took them just four minutes to open their account after centre JW Jonker chased through a deft grubber from Roos to dot down for a converted try.
The Kings struck back just three minutes later when wing Marcello Sampson dived over in the corner to round off a strong passage of play from the home team with their attack beginning on their own 10 metre line.
The hosts seemed to have the edge in the tight phases but the Pumas’ defence was tigerish and Roos made the Kings pay for their ill-discipline with three penalties as the visitors raced to a 16-5 lead after 20 minutes.
Perez then received his deserved red card when he landed a flurry of punches on Pumas’ left wing Wilhelm Loock in the 27th minute before Bulbring received a yellow card five minutes later for stamping on an opponent.
Despite being down to 13 men the Kings managed to reach the break without conceding any points with the Pumas holding a 16-5 lead at half-time.
However, the Pumas made their two-man advantage count three minutes after the restart when fullback Coenie van Wyk sliced through the Kings’ stretched defensive line to scoot clear for a converted try.
Roos extended the lead with his fourth penalty before the Kings showed that they still had some fight left in them when inside centre Tiger Mangweni slid over for a converted try in the 57th minute after a powerful run.
The score seemed to invigorate the hosts who, despite the heavy rain in the final quarter, had the better of their opponents despite being a man down and their repeated attacks eventually paid off when Pumas flank Jaco Bouwer was yellow carded in the 67th minute after the visitors had been warned for repeated infringements.
The Kings’ persistence paid off in the 74th minute when Watson was mauled over for his 11th try of the season before he dotted down again two minutes from time in a similar fashion with flyhalf George Whitehead stepping up to slot the conversion which secured the draw.
EP KINGS – Tries: Marcello Sampson, Tiger Mangweni, Luke Watson (2); Conversions: George Whitehead (3).
FORD PUMAS – Tries: JW Jonker, Coenie van Wyk; Conversions: JC Roos (2); Penalties: Roos (4).