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Port Elizabeth – The Southern Kings narrowly lost their opening PRO14 match of the 2019/20 season with Cardiff Blues clinching a late 31-27 win at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday.

Southern Kings flyhalf, Demetri Catrakilis, who got the scoreboard ticking early on when he slotted in a penalty five minutes into the game to give the home side a 3-0 lead.

Five minutes later, Blues flanker Olly Robinson opened the scoring for the visitors with the first try of the match which went unconverted by flyhalf Jarrod Evans.

Following a yellow card for Evans in the 25th minute, the home side took immediate advantage and scored their first try of the season through flanker Tienie Burger, and Catrakilis made no mistake in converting it for a full seven points to give the Kings a 13-5 lead which the side retained until the half-time break.

The visitors showed their intent to forge a comeback early in the second stanza.

Just two minutes after play resumed, hooker Liam Belcher crossed over the whitewash for the second try of the afternoon for the Blues.

In the 50th minute, debutant hooker Jacques du Toit managed an incredible breakaway run and found scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer, who scored from the play, in support as the Kings surged forward to extend the lead.

Cardiff fullback, Matthew Morgan, revived the visitors’ fightback with a try in the 60th minute which was converted by Evans.

The Blues scored two more tries in the final 13 minutes, with one being converted, while the home side played with 14 men as lock Jerry Sexton found himself in the sin-bin.

Despite a try from another debutant, fullback Andell Loubser, in the 77th minute, and full house of conversions from the boot of Catrakilis, the Kings fell agonisingly short of a victory in their first match of the season, with the Blues claiming the first scalp.

While there is disappointment with the result, the team is took some confidence from positive displays from their performance on their opening day of the season.

“There was a lot of promising play, but also a lot of opportunities that we missed out on,” Southern Kings interim head coach, Robbi Kempson, said.

“There were three occasions in the strike zone, inside their 22-metre, that we did not come away with points. When you play PRO14 Rugby and you miss those opportunities that becomes the difference in the game. That is why we ended up a bit short in the end.

“But we have some positives to take out of this game. A lot of youngsters got a run today, and there was also some good experience. There are subtleties that we need to work on. But we will get there.

“This was our first hit out – against strong, experienced opposition who, combined, had over 1000 caps on the field. So, yes, we are disappointed with the results, but I am not disappointed with the manner we went about our business.”

– Southern Kings