Pro14: Southern Kings v UlsterSouthern Kings (22) 36Tries: Klaasen 2, Penxe 2, Makase Cons: Zono 3, Coleman Pen: ZonoUlster (10) 43Tries: Reidy, Andrew 2, Cooney, Trimble, Ross, Diack Cons: Cooney, Lealiifano 3
Ulster narrowly beat the Pro14’s worst team the Southern Kings in an amazing 12-try match in Port Elizabeth.
The South African side, without a point heading into the game, led for most of the match but Ulster finished stronger to regain second place in Conference B.
Sean Reidy, John Andrew (2), John Cooney, Andrew Trimble and Clive Ross got the visitors’ touchdowns.
Berton Klaasen and Yaw Penxe each scored twice for the Kings and the final whistle was a relief for Ulster.
The Irish province’s defensive frailties had offered the South Africans the chance of a first victory in a match that had been switched from the 46,000-capacity Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium to the smaller Wolfson Stadium.
And, in their new surroundings, the Kings made a blistering start which left a stunned Ulster 12 points down inside eight minutes.
Centre Klaasen got over for a third-minute try, getting a short pass from scrum-half Rudi van Rooyen after an initial surge had been held up just short of the line.
In blustery conditions, Oliver Zono failed to add the extras but the fly-half soon was soon lining up another conversion as the hosts struck again with a second try in the seventh minute.
Full-back Penxe did well to scoop up Zono’s kick through and score a try which Zono converted for an early 12-0 advantage.
The Kings went close to a third try but winger Michael Makase dropped the final pass when a score looked on.
Ulster got off the mark when back row Reidy touched down after a decent team move upfield from deep to reduce the hosts’ lead.
Zono slotted over a penalty to put the Kings 15-5 up, but then came a second Ulster try as hooker Andrew was driven over.
Ulster, without their six Ireland internationals, were pressing for a third when they were hit by a brilliant breakaway try by Makase.
The winger intercepted in his own 22 and, from his own kick ahead, outpaced visiting full-back Charles Piutau to get a touchdown which required lengthy checking by the TMO.
Zono added the conversion to hand the Pro14’s bottom team a 22-10 interval advantage.
Andrew scored his second try in the 50th minute, quickly followed by scrum-half Cooney’s score under the posts, which he converted to tie the game at 22-22.
The momentum should have been with the visitors, but Southern Kings were not finished and pounced for a fourth try, Klaasen crossing to earn them their first point in the Pro14.
Trailing again by seven points, Ulster responded with tries by winger Andrew Trimble and replacement flanker Ross.
It was Trimble’s 50th try in the competition and the score by Ross, converted by Lealiifano, put Ulster into the lead for the first time at 36-29.
But the tries kept coming with full-back Penxe snapping up a fifth for the Kings which was converted by replacement Kurt Coleman for 36-36.
But Ulster got their seventh and match-winning try when Bristol-bound forward Robbie Diack powered over in the 77th minute.
Southern Kings: Penxe, Makase, Klaasen, Vulindlu, Bock, Zono, Van Rooyen, Ferreira, Coetzee, de Klerk, Greeff, de Wee, Ntsila, van Vuuren, Lerm.
Replacements: Balekile, M. Majola, Pupuma, Welemu, D. van Schalkwyk, Gouws, Coleman, Sage.
Ulster: Piutau, Gilroy, Ludik, Cave, Trimble, Lealiifano, Cooney, Warwick, Andrew, Herbst, Treadwell, O’Connor, Rea, Henry, Reidy.
Replacements: McBurney, Black, Kane, Diack, C. Ross, Stewart, Nelson, Bowe.
Referee: Quinton Immelman (South Africa)