Vincent Koch’s late converted try denied the Sunwolves a second ever Super Rugby win as the hosts drew 17-17 with the Stormers in Singapore.
Akihito Yamada’s first-half try and 12 points from the boot of Tusi Pisi looked to be enough for Mark Hammett’s men to secure an impressive win over a side who easily defeated them 46-19 earlier in the season in Cape Town.
The Stormers coming off their bye week looked lethargic and rarely established enough rhythm on attack to disrupt the Sunwolves defence.
Their ill-discipline was also punished frequently by the boot of Pisi on a bad night for Robbie Fleck’s side until they rallied midway through the second half, leaving it right until the last minute to get what proved to be the tying score.
As a result the Stormers extend their lead at the top of the Africa 1 Conference to three points over the Bulls.
A noticeable change in tactics on defence played a key role in the Sunwolves’ promising first half, committing fewer bodies to the breakdown in order to fill in any gaps across the backline for the Stormers to exploit.
The short kicking game of Tusi Pisi and the rest of the Sunwolves backs was also excellent, and one of those kicks led to the game’s opening try for the in-form Akihito Yamada.
Jean-Luc du Plessis opened the scoring with a penalty in the third minute, with Pisi replying shortly afterwards to tie up the score at 3-3.
A clever kick down the touchline from Pisi then had the Stormers scrambling and the Sunwolves pounced, recovering the ball as flanker Andrew Durutalo went close to the line but was held up short, before Yamada snuck over to score.
That try took Yamada to eight for the year, moving him to the top of the standings with Chiefs full-back Damien McKenzie.
Pisi was unable to convert but an impressive defensive stand from the Sunwolves deep in their 22, as the Stormers went over 20 phases, was met with plenty of enthusiasm from the Singapore supporters as the Stormers were held out.
Back up the other end with the Stormers conceding penalties Pisi capitalised by knocking over consecutive three-pointers, establishing an impressive 14-3 lead for the hosts as the began thinking about that elusive second win.
Riaan Viljoen couldn’t add to their tally as he missed from long range, with the Stormers having the final say of the first half. A wayward pass from Pieter-Steph du Toit ended any chance of more points however after his break, with the Sunwolves ahead by eleven points by half-time.
Initially it looked as though the Sunwolves and Yamada has added a second score when the winger reached out from close-range to place the ball on the line, but a consultation between referee Paul Williams and the TMO correctly ruled the score out after what felt like an age.
Pisi was soon back to add another penalty, his fourth, stretching the gap on the scoreboard to 14 points.
At last close to the 55-minute mark the Stormers kicked into life, a rolling maul spearheaded by Du Toit giving them momentum as Siya Kolisi’s break took him up to just short of the Sunwolves’ line.
Going back to the corner from three successive penalties, the Stormers finally scored through the impressive Du Toit from close range for the visitors’ first try, converted by Du Plessis to make it 17-10.
Little things were beginning to go the way of the Stormers following a swing of momentum and the introduction of Schalk Burger off the bench.
Trailing by seven points the Stormers’ resurgence threatened to set up a tense finish, with a remarkable tap tackle on Cheslin Kolbe somehow stopping the full-back when he looked to race away to score.
The visitors refused to give up however and after some good carrying from Oli Kebble his fellow front-row Koch crashed over.
Replacement fly-half Brandon Thomson held his nerve despite the crowd trying to distract him to then land the vital conversion, making it 17-17 as both sides were forced to settle for a draw.
Pens: Pisi 4
Tries: Du Toit, Koch
Cons: Du Plessis, Thomson
Pen: Du Plessis
Sunwolves: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Akihito Yamada, 13 Derek Carpenter, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa (c), 11 John Stewart, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Atsushi Hiwasa, 8 Ed Quirk, 7 Andrew Durutalo, 6 Liaki Moli, 5 Fa’atiga Lemalu, 4 Timothy Bond, 3 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 2 Takeshi Kizu, 1 Masataka Mikami
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Ziun Gu, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Yoshiya Hosoda, 20 Taiyo Ando, 21 Yuki Yatomi, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Mifiposeti Paea
Stormers: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Juan de Jongh (cc), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Kobus van Wyk, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Frans Malherbe (cc), 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Brandon Thomson, 23 Huw Jones
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant Referees: Mike Fraser, Shuhei Kubo
TMO: Takashi Hareda