Southern Kings 7
Adam McKendry reports from the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
A BRACE OF late tries from debutant backs saw Ulster see off the Southern Kings 28-7 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, but they failed to pick up a bonus point from the encounter in South Africa.
Academy wing Angus Kernohan and centre Angus Curtis scored inside the final 15 minutes to maintain Ulster’s 100% start to the season, however they will be frustrated not to have picked up maximum points in a game they dominated.
John Cooney kicked Ulster into an early lead through a fifth minute penalty as the Kings infringed early, and although the visitors controlled the early stages, they couldn’t find a try and instead had to settle for another Cooney kick in the 10th minute.
It was to be a frustrating first half for Ulster as they continued to apply all of the pressure in all of the right areas of the pitch, but the Kings’ repeated infringing and costly errors meant the Irish province couldn’t add to their tally.
They were aided when the referee finally lost patience with the South Africans and gave Martinus Burger a yellow card, but even when Ulster did finally get over for the score, Cooney sniping over from close range after a strong carry from Marcell Coetzee, the TMO ruled it out for Alan O’Connor’s illegal clearout at a previous ruck.
The lock saw yellow for his mistake, but Ulster saw another penalty go over as Cooney extended their lead with his third penalty of the afternoon.
But as the half wore on, the Kings began to threaten and they nearly had a score when a kind bounce allowed Harlon Klassen in behind, only for Billy Burns to recover superbly to deny Yaw Penxe a try after Klassen’s kick through.
Even though they lost Rob Herring to a yellow card for collapsing a maul just before the interval, Ulster scrambled brilliantly well to deny the hosts a first half try, however within two minutes of the restart the dam burst as the Kings set up another driving maul and Michael Willemse went over from the back.
While that score brought it back to within a penalty, and from there the game became scrappy as Ulster began to feel the pressure and the Kings overplayed on occasion in an attempt to nudge ahead for the first time.
However, Ulster were never really threatened again by their South African hosts and instead they set about mounting a late charge at picking up an unlikely bonus point, even though they weren’t helped by a lack of breakdown presence when attacking on the five metre line.
Eventually, the breakthrough came, and it was courtesy of the arrivals of Eric O’Sullivan and Wiehahn Herbst to the front row that tipped the forward dynamic in Ulster’s favour. After a set of dominant scrums on the Kings’ five metre line, Marcell Coetzee was able to barrel his way over the line for the score.
That allowed Ulster more creative freedom with the gap now beyond a try, and that saw replacement Kernohan grab his debut try when a maul was stopped just short of the line, with the winger breaking down the blindside and diving over in the corner.
But, despite good breaks from both Matty Rea and Adam McBurney, Ulster couldn’t find a try in enough time to make the four try bonus point a reality, no matter how hard they tried.
A good spin away from a tackle from Curtis allowed him over for the debut score with the final play of the game, and Ulster will be happy they didn’t need the full 80 for this win, as they opened their South African tour with a win.
Con: Banda (1 from 1)
Tries: Coetzee, Kernohan, Curtis
Cons: Burns (1 from 2), Nelson (1 from 1)
Pens: Cooney (3 from 3)
SOUTHERN KINGS: Michael Botha (Ntabeni Dukisa 73), Yaw Penxe, Harlon Klassen, Berton Klassen (Martin du Toit 62), Bjorn Basson, Masixole Banda, Godlen Masimla (Rudi van Rooyen 49); Schalk Ferreira (Xandre Vos 62), Michael Willemse (Alandre van Rooyen 73), Luvuyo Pupuma (Justin Forwood 52), John-Charles Astle, Bobby de Wee (Lubabalo Mtyanda 73), Stephan de Wit (Ruaan Lerm 62), Martinus Burger, Andisa Ntsila.
ULSTER: Will Addison, Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave (Angus Kernohan 64), Stuart McCloskey, Henry Speight, Billy Burns (Angus Curtis 67), John Cooney (David Shanahan 33); Andy Warwick (Eric O’Sullivan 49), Rob Herring (Adam McBurney 67), Tom O’Toole (Wiehahn Herbst 46), Alan O’Connor, Kieran Treadwell (Jean Deysel 75), Marcell Coetzee, Sean Reidy, Nick Timoney (Matty Rea 57).
Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
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