Cardiff Blues kicked-off the new Guinness PRO14 season with a tense bonus-point victory over Isuzu Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth.
Wales’ Capital Region trailed 13-5 at the interval despite an Olly Robinson try to mark his 50th cap in a lacklustre first half.
They found their rhythm in the second-half with further tries from Liam Belcher, Matthew Morgan, Kristian Dacey and Harri Millard but they could never move out of reach of the hosts who crossed for two more tries of their own.
The Kings threatened right until the death at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium but Cardiff Blues clung on to deny the hosts and leave South Africa with a maximum-points haul.
They return to Wales on Monday and host Edinburgh at the Arms Park on Saturday, in the second round of the PRO14.
A new-look Kings outfit, containing six PRO14 debutants, came flying out of the blocks in Port Elizabeth and hounded Cardiff Blues at every opportunity.
They opened the scoring on three minutes thanks to the boot of fly-half Demetri Catrakilis and Cardiff Blues responded well. They soon had an opportunity to draw level but instead went to the corner.
Kings initially defended well but infringed as they stopped the maul and Evans dinked a ball over their rush defence. It appeared as though either the on-rushing Willis Halaholo or Garyn Smith would collect but the ball ricocheted off the right upright.
Wales’ Capital Region went back to the corner and this time there was no halting them as Seb Davies took the lineout at the back and the driving lineout surged forward with Robinson dotting down on his 50thappearance.
Evans failed to add the extras from wide but the Blues continued to threaten before the Kings took a stranglehold on the half.
They regained the lead with a second penalty on 17 minutes and were now attacking from every opportunity.
Cardiff Blues were dealt a major blow on 24 minutes when Evans was sent to the sin-bin following a succession of team penalties. The Kings kicked to the corner and, while the driving lineout was brought to a halt, the damage was done as Tienie Burger was able to pick and go.
Catrakilis converted to stretch his side’s lead to 13-5 and matters were made worse when Nick Williams was forced off with an arm injury picked up in the tackle. The number eight was already off the pitch when Mike Adamson consulted the TMO and Williams was shown yellow, leaving the Blues down to 13 men.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, Wales’ Capital Region managed the period well and remained just eight points adrift and were unlucky not to claim a try of their own following some neat interplay between Evans, Morgan and Summerhill with the clock in the red.
Whatever Mulvihill said at the break did the trick and the Blues were much improved straight from the kick-off.
It did not take them long to spring the scoreboard back into action with their second try. A trademark scything break from Evans caused carnage in the Kings defence and Liam Belcher maintained momentum with a fierce carry.
The Blues were awarded the penalty and kicked to the corner and once again their driving lineout proved unstoppable with Halaholo giving hooker Belcher a final boost over the line.
Evans converted to bring the visitors within a point of the hosts. They continued to build into the encounter, but they were struck by a sucker punch when the lineout miss-fired and the Kings pounced with a stunning counter-attack finished by Stefan Ungerer.
Catrakilis kept the scoreboard ticking to restore the hosts eight-point advantage but the Blues were to be undeterred and they soon enjoyed a purple patch.
Following a sustained period of pressure, which saw Robinson denied a second by the TMO, the Blues claimed a third try on the hour mark. They stretched the hosts from left to right and back again with Evans picking out Halaholo with a long pass, who then put man-of-the-match Morgan away for a try on his 100th Guinness PRO14 appearance.
Evans converted and the Blues were back within one point. Seven minutes later they were in the lead. Again, it was a thunderous driving lineout, this time with Dacey dotting down for the bonus-point try, with all but three players involved in the drive.
The fly-half was on target to give the Blues a 26-20 advantage and he was back at the tee within five minutes. This time the driving maul did not reap rewards but possession was maintained and following strong carries from the likes of Corey Domachowski and Seb Davies, the Kings ran out of numbers and Millard crossed in the corner.
At this point the Blues appeared cut and dry but the Kings were relentless and set up a tense finale when they claimed a third converted try. Mulvihill’s men weathered a storm at the death but they hung on for a maximum points victory.