All eyes were on South Africa this weekend as Southern Kings picked up their first Guinness PRO14 victory.
The Kings downed Dragons 45-13 and there was more joy for Toyota Cheetahs as a Neil Marais penalty snatched victory over Connacht in Bloemfontein.
We have looked back at the two games, picking out the key points from each contest
Toyota Cheetahs 26-25 Connacht
- Cheetahs would not lie down when Connacht took the lead, fighting to the bitter end for victory at the Toyota Stadium. Having only lost at home once this season, a close 26-29 defeat to Glasgow in Round 6, the South Africans have made the home ground a fortress and proved their grit and persistence.
- Connacht’s lack of discipline cost them in the end, giving away 13 penalties throughout the match, the last proving to be the one that would concede defeat for the Irish. Furthermore, Marais’ accuracy from the tee was the difference as his last-minute penalty won the match for the hosts.
- The visitors couldn’t make use of their dominant possession and territory in the first half, and even though they scored more tries than Cheetahs, they let the game slip after leading for the majority of the second half. It was the hosts’ reaction to Connacht’s second-half try that won them the game, scoring back instantly and piling the pressure on the Irish in the final quarter, forcing them to succumb.
Southern Kings 45-13 Dragons
- Now the pressure of a first Guinness PRO14 win is finally off the Southern Kings’ backs, there are plenty of reasons to believe they can go on and secure some more before the season is out. Attacking-wise, they have been dangerous all year and have some fine ball-players in their ranks – with Luzuko Vulindlu and Kurt Coleman running the show against the Dragons. But it was defensively where it finally all came together against the Dragons, as the Kings routinely won the battle at the breakdown and turned over ball.
- The Dragons will be looking over their shoulders. Finishing sixth in Conference B looked like the bare minimum for them this season but this loss brings the Kings back into contention. The gap, with just two months left of the season to go, is down to eight points and with tricky games at home to the Toyota Cheetahs and away at an in-form Benetton Rugby to come the Kings will sense a chance. If the Welsh side are to get back on track then fly-half Dorian Jones will be key. He was accurate from the tee and scored a try in South Africa.
- They may have been stifled for much of the season but the Kings’ backs really came to the fore against the Dragons. Vulindlu was powerful every time he got the ball at centre but Kurt Coleman stole the headlines for his part in a try-of-the-season contender. Most players stuck in their own 22 would kick to safety but it says a lot about the Kings that they sensed a chance of something special Coleman ducked and weaved through two challenges and then set off at an incredible pace. Vulindlu just about stayed with him to take the pass and score. Glasgow Warriors, Scarlets and Leinster may be semi-final bound but the Kings may have produced the moment of the entire campaign.
Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie