Last-gasp Kings reign in Melbourne
The Souther Kings scored a history first-ever win in Australasia when they beat the Rebels 30-27 in a dramatic Super Rugby encounter in Melbourne on Saturday.
The winning score came two minutes into injury time – when flyhalf Dimitri Catrakilis slotted a drop-goal to give the tournament rookies their second win of the season, to go with last week's equally dramatic late draw against the Brumbies and a Round One win over the Western Force.
The result means the Rebels have still not beaten a South African team, while the Kings have still not lost to an Australian franchise.
How do they do it? They play the Brumbies, get hardly any ball and draw. They play the Rebels, get hardly any ball and win.
There must be something special in the character of this Kings team, new to Super Rugby and collecting seven league points on their tour of Australasia.
Top teams would like that, which suggests that maybe they are on the way to being a top team.
They started off like a house on fire and then it seemed that their house was being burnt into ruin as they went from 14-0 up to 27-17 down, but those dramatic last four minutes were still to come. And when they were over the Rebels had again not beaten a South African team and the Kings had for the first time won in Australasia. In two matches in Australia they had earned a draw and then won this match.
The Kings started off under the cosh as the Rebels had the ball and attacked at will. There was nothing for the Kings to do but defend. Then from a scrum, they went wide left. Andries Strauss passed a magnificent pass under pressure to George Whitehead who was up from fullback. Whitehead gave to Ronnie Cooke near touch. For some reason Nick Phipps missed the tackle and the wing scored in the left corner, whence Dimitri Catrakelis converted. 7-0 after nine minutes.
The Rebels continued to dominate possession but their hands let them down too often. The Kings threw into a line-out inside their own half. It seemed an innocuous situation but Shaun Venter threw two dummies to get past Phipps and then Scott Higginbotham and ran 55 swerving, deceptive metres to score a spectacular individual tries. 14-0 after 15 minutes.
Counterattacking off a Strauss kick, the Rebels attacked right, left and right. They bashed. Given a penalty they tapped and bashed some more and Ged Robinson eeled his way over for a try. 14-7 after 26 minutes.
James O'Connor goaled a penalty when Devin Oosthuizen was offside and a minute later Catrakelis goaled when Hugh Pyle was penalised for obstruction. 17-10 after 33 minutes. It would be a long, defensive time before the Kings scored again.
When the Kings were offside at a kick, the Rebels chose a scrum. The Kings were penalised again and the Rebels tapped and charged. Then they went wide left and Angus Roberts, on for injured Richard Kingi, scored in the left corner, whence O'Connor converted. 17-all, which was the half-time score.
An O'Connor penalty for some tackle infringement, gave the Rebels the lead, 20-17 after 45 minutes.
From a line-out on their left the Rebels, who regularly used a forward to charge in midfield, went right where Cadeyrn Neville was pulled down centimetres from the line but Micth Inman was on hand to pick up, force his way through Whitehead and score his first Super Rugby try. Again O'Connor goaled from the touchline. 27-17 after 53 minutes, and the Kings looked sunk.
In the first half the penalty count had been five-one against the Kings and that had reached 8-1 in the second half when Higginbotham was penalised for being offside and Catrakelis goaled. 27-20. From now on the Kings were not penalised again and the match's penalty count ended eight-all.
Just when the Kings looked down and out their luck seemed to change. Twice they turned penalties into attacking line-outs when they mauled and bashed, but to no avail. Then with 12 minutes to play Catrakelis missed a penalty from in front – strange as it may seem.
Twice more the Kings turned penalties into five-metre line-outs and the second time they got their maul going and Wimpie van der Walt fell to ground with the ball for the try. Catrakelis converted. Miracle of miracles, it was 27-all with four minutes to play.
Those four minutes belonged entirely to the Kings. They attacked. A scrum was awarded but the final siren sounded. The referee – correctly – allowed the scrum, to take place. Rugged Jacques Engelbrecht picked up and charged to the posts. He was stopped and the ball was passed back to Catrakelis. From slap in front and 15 metres out the flyhalf dropped a goal and won the match.
Hugging and dancing broke out amongst the Kings. They know they have no divine right of victory but they are not afraid to keep trying.
Man of the Match: The outstanding Rebel may well have been hooker Ged Robinson but our Man of the Match is the King's scrumhalf Shaun Venter who did everything extraordinarily well – passing quickly and accurately, quick into position, once saving a desperate situation and the scoring that try.
For the Rebels:
Tries: Robinson, Roberts, Inman
Cons: O'Connor 3
Pens: O'Connor 2
For the Southern Kings:
Tries: Cooke, Venter, Van der Walt
Cons: Catrakilis 3
Pens: Catrakilis 2
Yellow card: Jordy Reid (Rebels, 75 – repeated infringements at the breakdown)
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Richard Kingi, 14 Jason Woodward, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 James O'Connor, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Scott Higginbotham (captain), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Luke Jones, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Laurie Weeks, 18 Jordy Reid, 19 Jarrod Saffy, 20 Nic Stirzaker, 21 Lachlan Mitchell, 22 Angus Roberts.
Southern Kings: 15 George Whitehead, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Andries Strauss (captain), 11 Ronnie Cooke, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Wimpie van der Walt, 6 Devin Oosthuizen, 5 Rynier Bernardo, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Grant Kemp, 2 Hannes Franklin, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Kevin Buys, 18 David Bulbring, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht, 20 Nicolas Vergallo, 21 Marcello Sampson, 22 Siviwe Soyzwapi.
Referee: Andrew Lees (Australia)
Assistant referees: Ian Smith (Australia), Richard, Goswell (Australia)
TMO: Matt Goddard (Australia)