Park maintained their position at the top of Group A of the EC Super 12 competition with a narrow 23-22 win over Star of Hope in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
It was a missed penalty by Star of Hope fullback Siya Khasibe in the final minute of the game that handed Park the one-point win at Londt Park – a result even they will acknowledge was probably not their best so far.
In a game of brutal hits, which left players on both side battered and bruised, Park had their scrumhalf Morne Labuschagne red carded and Star of Hope reserve prop Sebenzile Nonzube yellow carded for dangerous tackle.
Star of Hope, from the outset, attempted to play the game at pace and stretch the Park pack. However, at times they let themselves down with sloppy handling. While Park were more structured than their opponents, they produced some great attacks of their own and came close to scoring but poor decision making at critical moments cost them in the first quarter.
In the 18th minute of the match park scrumhalf Morne Labuschagne was yellow carded for a dangerous tackle on Star of hope inside centre Monwabisi Mkwakwi, but this was converted to a red card after he used fowl language on his way out. However this did not deter Park as they continued with their structured play and they put together another one of those plays which resulted in their first try by fullback Andies Garcia. Flyhalf Handre Snetler converted to give Park as 7-0 lead.
Then Star of Hope tried to utilize their one man advantage by spreading the ball wide but Park lock Kuhle Sonkosi intercepted and pushed a hammer down for a 40 meter dash to score Parks second try. Snetler converted to push the lead to 14-0.
Park pressed forward again with some nice inter plays between backs and forwards that Star of hope were struggling to stop which resulted in then being penalized for slowing the ball down and Snetler was on hand to convert the penalty for a 17-0 lead
Then Star of Hope responded immediately with a try of their own from eight-men Ntsika Fisanti who beat two defenders before scoring his first super 12 try. Fullback Siya Khasibe converted to trail Park 17-7. But minutes later Snetler increased Park lead with another penalty, for a tackle without the ball, to take their lead to 20-7 at halftime.
The second-half scoring started with a scrum penalty against Park, Star of Hope kicked for the corner. From the resulting line out hooker Mzwanele Besmani scored but Khasibe missed the conversion for a 20-12 scoreline.
The bounce continued to favour Star of hope, a driving maul from their forwards ended with a try to replacement flanker Lonwabo Jam. Khasibe’s conversion was wide – the Star of hope trailing leading 20-17 with 15 minutes left on the clock.
Minutes later Star of Hope were reduced to 14 men with the assistant referee reported that Bismarck du Plessis had hit an opponent with the elbow in the face. And Snetler made the Star of hope pay for their lack of discipline – 23-17.
However, Star of hope hit back emphatically – Park were penalized for offside inside the Star of hope forwards tapped the ball and took it to the right where fullback Khasibe was ready and dotted down for a well worked try but he missed the conversion for a 23-22 scoreline.
With two minutes remaining the Star of hope won a penalty after Park were penalized for coming from the side, but Siya Khasibe was wide and Park escaped with a 23-22 win – going top of the Group A standings, while Star of Hope remained second.
What Star of hope did do better than Park, was adjust to match official’s interpretations. And as the penalty count mounted after the break, so did the visitors’ score. In the end, it came down to one missed kick.
Park lock Kuhle Sonkosi was the man of the match after putting together a sterling performance throughout the match.
Other EC Super 12 Fourth Round matches played elsewhere:
Despatch 27-24 Kruisfontein
Breakers 14-20 Gardens
EL Police 12-13 Berlin Tigers