Late scoring burst ensures Ulster avoid shock loss in 12-try thriller
Southern Kings 36-43 Ulster
John Andrew scored two crucial tries for Ulster as Les Kiss' side survived a huge shock and edged a 12-try epic in Port Elizabeth.
The home side looked to be on their way to a first Guinness PRO14 victory as they led by 12 points at half-time and seven in the final quarter, but Andrew Trimble, Clive Ross and Robbie Diack ran in tries in the last 11 minutes to seal the come-from-behind win.
Despite the scattered nature of this victory, Ulster have plenty to be happy with as they are now in second place in Conference B, a point ahead of Leinster in the standings.
Played in the Wolfson Stadium in the Kwazakhele township, five miles from their regular home of Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, the Kings soon gave the home crowd plenty to cheer with a powerful start.
Four minutes into the game the teetering Ulster defence finally collapsed when Berton Klaasen wriggled through a tackle, and in the seventh minute they scored again when Oliver Zono's deft grubber kick was finished off by Yaw Penxe for a 12-0 lead.
Ulster were shambolic in the early stages and they should have conceded a third and fourth try before the end of the first quarter, but poor handling from Michael Makase and Penxe denied them certain scores.
On the back of those let-offs, Ulster finally found some scrap of positivity to cling to, but it took a break the length of the field to shock them to life. Under pressure with a scrum five metres from their own line, Ulster finally broke away and they made significant yardage when Christian Lealiifano and Charles Piutau exchanged passes. The score was finished off by No 8 Sean Reidy in the left corner after 19 minutes.
With the wind at his back, Zono again tamed the conditions from the tee with a well-struck penalty, but Ulster pulled to within five points 13 minutes from the interval when John Andrew scored off the back of a controlled rolling maul.
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Considering they had tasted seven straight defeats so far this season, Kings might have been expected to collapse as Ulster bared their teeth, but instead Kiss' side were sloppy and fell further behind.
Kings' third try stemmed from a great chance for Ulster at the opposite end following a good line-break from Darren Cave. Cave had options on each shoulder, but instead of delivering the killer blow his poor pass was picked off by Makase in the Kings 22. The winger put boot to ball and chased his kick, and with Piutau tentatively reading the bounce, Makase beat the All Black to the touch down and gave his side a 22-10 interval lead.
Andrew's second try after 50 minutes gave Ulster real hope, and four minutes later they were level after Cooney converted his own try - a well-worked move off the back of a scrum.
Klassen briefly reclaimed the lead for Kings with his second try, but Ulster showed superior fitness and calmness in the closing stages as Andrew Trimble, Clive Ross and Diack clinched victory.
Scorers - Southern Kings: B Klaasen (2), Y Penxe (2), M Makase tries; O Zono 3 cons, pen; K Coleman con.
Ulster: S Reidy, R Andrew (2), J Cooney, A Trimble, C Ross, R Diack tries; J Cooney con, C Lealiifano 3 cons.
Southern Kings: Y Penxe; M Makase, B Klaasen, L Vulindlu, A Bock (J Sage, 61); O Zono (K Coleman, 70), R van Rooyen (R Gouws, 21); S Ferreira (c) (M Majola, 70), S Coetzee (T Balekile, 61), R de Klerk (L Pupuma, 59); S Greeff (L Welemu, 67), B de Wee; A Ntsila, J van Vuuren (D van Schalkwyk, 67), R Lerm.
Ulster: C Piutau; C Gilroy, L Ludik, D Cave (T Bowe, 61), A Trimble; C Lealiifano, J Cooney; A Warwick (C Black, 61), J Andrew (A McBurney, 74), W Herbst (R Kane, 37), K Treadwell, A O'Connor; M Rea (R Diack, 65), C Henry (c) (C Ross, 55), S Reidy.
Referee: Q Immelman (SARU)
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