The Kings beat the Bulls 30-31 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria thanks to Lionel Cronjé’s last-gasp penalty after the hooter, won the game for the Port Elizabeth side and started scenes of pandemonium.
This was another historic win for the Eastern Provence side, especially with this being their last season in Super Rugby.
Cronjé was the hero, claiming a full house; kicking three penalties, two conversions and a dropped goal to go with his first-half try for a match haul of 21 points.
The Bulls fought their way back from a 3-22 deficit in the first period to take a one-point lead with less than a minute remaining before Cronjé broke Loftus Versfeld hearts.
Makazole Mapimpi and Malcolm Jaer scored for the PE men while Jason Jenkins, Duncan Matthews and Jaco Visagie scored for the home team.
The Kings’ win moves them to six wins this season, equal with the Brumbies and Jaguares but more than the other four Australian sides and the Bulls, Cheetahs and Sunwolves.
Not bad for a side that has been kicked out of Super Rugby because they are deemed a weak franchise.
Since the announcement of their departure from the tournament, they have played with flair and cunning, beating the Sharks, the Waratahs, Jaguares, Sunwolves and Bulls away from home, and thrashed the Rebels.
Not bad for a poor side. They arrived at Loftus knowing this was, for most of them, their last shot at beating the famous team in Blue.
Boy, did they do just that? Cronjé and Schoeman traded early penalties before the Kings scored their first try of the evening through Mapimpi. Cronjé made it 3-10 with the conversion.
Jason Jenkins was sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle on Cronjé and the visitors made them pay.
The Kings went several phases in attack, pulling the Bulls around the park. The move almost broke down, but after some good handling, some pick and goes, the Cronjé crashed over, under the posts from close range and converted the score to stretch the lead to 14 points.
Wandile Mjekevu followed Jenkins to the sidelines soon after, but it made no difference to the Kings. Instead, they scored again after Cronjé did his best Beauden Barrett impersonation, cross-kicking to Chris Cloete.
Cloete offloaded to the supporting Jaer. The fullback burned Ruan Steenkamp and raced in for his side’s third try.
At 3-22, the Bulls were in disarray, however, they found some momentum and mounted a spirited comeback.
With the clock in the red after the hooter sounded, Adriaan Strauss, with a bulldozing run, set up Jenkins for the try. Schoeman added the conversion and the home side went into the break only 12 points down.
Three minutes after the restart, Matthews scored the Bulls’ second try. The Bulls went quickly from first phase ball, Warrick Gelant joined the line and sent the winger away.
Matthews still had to swerve Jaer and beat Mapimpi before scoring in the corner. Schoeman’s conversion reduced the deficit to five points.
The momentum had shifted 180 degrees to the home side. They started attacking with purpose and eliminating their handling errors. The visitors needed to get possession to halt the blue tide.
Schoeman kicked a 59th-minute penalty to make it a two-point ball game at 20-22. Lubabalo Mtyanda was soon off for killing the ball at the ruck; a very cynical and daft move by the lock forward, especially because it was right in front of the referee.
The blond standoff did not miss, giving his side the lead for the first time in the game with another penalty.
The Kings could have folded under the pressure and numerical disadvantage, but instead, they marched the Bulls down the field, Cronjé dropped deep into the pocket, received Louis Schreuder’s good pass and slotted the three-pointer.
With time running out, Cronjé added his third penalty to give his team some breathing space, however, the Bulls were not done.
They hit back through Visagie. Serfontein made the initial break before being tackled, the Bulls recycled the ball quickly and Visagie took route one to score under the sticks.
Schoeman’s conversion with less than a minute to play gave the Bulls a two-point lead, one they should have defended.
But, as always, Super Rugby throws up thrilling denouements, and the game did so, again.
The Kings mauled their way to Bulls line and won a penalty and the Kings playmaker did the rest: Cue scenes.
Final score: Bulls 30 (10) Kings 31 (22)
Tries – Jenkins, Matthews, Visagie
Pen – T. Schoeman (3)
Con – T. Schoeman (3)
Cards – Jenkins (Yellow, 22nd minute)
Tries – Mapimpi, Cronjé, Jaer
Pen – Cronjé (3)
Con – Cronjé (2)
Drop – Cronjé
Cards – Mjekevu (Yellow, 28th minute), Mtyanda (Yellow, 65th minute)
Referee: Federico Anselmi
Assistant Ref 1: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Ref 2: Rasta Rasivhenge
TMO: Johan Greeff
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Duncan Matthews, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Nic de Jager, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Rudolph Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Conrad van Vuuren, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 John-Roy Jenkinson, 19 Ruben van Heerden, 20 Shaun Adendorff, 21 Andre Warner, 22 Tinus de Beer, 23 Burger Odendaal.
15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 Wandile Mjekevu, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Lionel Cronjé (captain), 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 4 Irne Herbst, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 Mzamo Majola.
Replacements: 16. Martin Bezuidenhout, 17. Schalk Ferreira, 18. Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19. Mzwanele Zito, 20. Thembelani Bholi, 21. Stefan Ungerer, 22. Masixole Banda, 23. Yaw Penxe