EP Kings test Wales
Wales' midweek outfit got their June tour off to a winning start on Tuesday as they beat a tough Eastern Province Kings side 34-12 in Port Elizabeth.
The game, which comes ahead of a two-Test series against the Springboks, followed hot on the heels of news that South Africa inside centre Frans Steyn would play no part in the upcoming fixtures after pulling out for personal reasons.
Wales coach Warren Gatland would have been intrigued by this as he looks for a confidence-boosting series victory in one of the toughest places, proved by the fact that their depleted opponents gave them a difficult evening.
Indeed the Kings certainly had opportunities to score but handling errors cost them dear in a decent match at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Wales meanwhile will take some positives from the game that saw them score five tries, one being the showing of a busy Matthew Morgan.
A combination of rustiness of the home side and season-hardened players for the visitors led to Wales starting the game the stronger, with a solid line-out drive seeing flanker Josh Turnbull cross on eleven minutes. James Hook's successful conversion made it 7-0 in what was the start of a purple patch.
Wales' next try scorer would be outside centre Cory Allen, who finished off initial powerful running from the pack before Ospreys number eight Dan Baker gave the final pass close to the uprights. Again Hook was on target for a 14-point lead with less than a quarter played.
The Kings would be boosted by a numerical advantage five minutes later however when Wales tighthead prop Rhodri Jones was shown yellow for offside. Unfortunately for the South African side they couldn't turn pressure into points, as the score was untouched.
Wales were now back to the full compliment as full-back Morgan continued to cause the hosts problems in attack, but with Hook landing three points from a penalty just before the break, one sensed they were realising it would not be a free-for-all against their rivals.
They did return from the break though with gusto and crossed twice inside seven minutes as a chip over the top saw Hook cruise over before a slick breakout led to Cuthbert finishing well on the right sideline. It was now 29-0 with the floodgates seeming likely to open.
Carlos Spencer's side though would not lie down and in fact finally got some reward for their endeavours in the 57th minute when right wing Siviwe Soyizwapi scored following patient work from his pack. George Whitehead would miss the extras which meant it was 29-5.
Wales had now made changes as Cuthbert went for scrum-half Gareth Davies, who was immediately in the thick of the action, first being denied when a pass from Aaron Shingler was called forward before he scored an individual effort soon after to stretch matters to 34-5.
But as the Kings had proved all game, they would not go down quietly and finished with a flourish when Simon Kerrod went over to add some respectability to the final scoreline.
For EP Kings:
Tries: Soyizwapi, Kerrod
Tries: Turnbull, Allen, Hook, Cuthbert, G Davies
Con: Hook 3
EP Kings: 15 Hansie Greeff, 14 Siviwe Soyizwapi, 13 Ronnie Cooke, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Scott van Breda, 10 George Whitehead, 9 Kevin Luiters, 8 Paul Schoeman, 7 Devin Oosthuizen, 6 Thembelani Bholi, 5 Cameron Lindsay, 4 Darron Nell (capt), 3 Charl du Plessis, 2 Edgar Marutlulle, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Albe de Swardt, 17 BG Uys, 18 Simon Kerrod, 19 Steven Cummins, 20 Stefan Willemse, 21 Jaco Grobler, 22 Dwayne Jenner, 23 Ntabeni Dukisa.
Wales: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Steven Shingler, 11 Jordan Williams, 10 James Hook, 9 Rhodri Williams, 8 Dan Baker, 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Dan Lydiate (c), 5 Ian Evans, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Rhodri Jones, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Aaron Jarvis, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 Aaron Shingler, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 George North, 23 Liam Williams.
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Christie du Preez (South Africa), Rodney Bonaparte (South Africa)