The Sunwolves recorded their first win ever in Super Rugby as they outsmarted fellow new boys the Jaguares 36-28 in Tokyo on Saturday.
Harumichi Tatekawa’s late try put the seal on a momentous win for the Sunwolves in front of their fans in Tokyo.
Despite being outscored by the Jaguares four tries to three, the Sunwolves were always in control thanks to the boot of Tusi Pisi, who kicked four penalties and three conversions, not to take anything away from the spirited Sunwolves attack. The visitors, who are known for the robust hard running rugby, were met the never-give-up attitude of Mark Hammett’s side.
Had Argentina international Juan Martín Hernández’s form off the kicking tee been better it could have allowed the visitors to remain within reach of the Sunwolves, who rebounded impressively from last week’s heavy loss to the Cheetahs.
The brilliance and skilful execution of Pisi allowed the Sunwolves’ backline to break tackles and beat defenders with ease. Neither side looked like a side who had been travelling for last three weeks.
Pisi added the first points when Guido Petti was penalised at ruck time, the pivot converting his attempt to hand the home side an early 3-0 lead.
The Jaguares made their intentions clear early on to throw everything at the fellow newcomers, as the Sunwolves were called on to make most of the tackling in the opening quarter.
A pick up and drive from captain Agustín Creevy saw the hooker muscle his way over for the first try of the match, although the subsequent conversion was missed by Hernández.
Minutes later a Jerónimo de la Fuente break up against the touchline allowed the outside centre to put Lucas González Amorosino into space and the left winger’s pace was just to good for Mifiposeti Paea as he crossed for the Jaguares’ second try, Hernández missing from the tee once again as the visitors lead was extended to 10-3.
The Jaguares’ defence were caught napping as Yasutaka Sasakura beat Ramiro Moyano allowing the home side to dot down in the corner much to the delight of the home crowd, Pisi’s conversion from a difficult angle resulting in the scores being leveled at 10-10.
A long-range penalty conversion from Pisi handed the Sunwolves a three-point lead at 13-10 as the last five minutes of the half approached.
Replacement full-back Emiliano Boffelli, on early for Joaquín Tuculet, re-gathered a Moyano chip kick a few metres from the Sunwolves’ try line, and the number fifteen powered his way over the whitewash for his side’s third try. Hernández’s poor kicking form continued as he missed the conversion but the Jaguares were ahead at 15-13.
Hernández did however manage to get on the scoresheet with a penalty conversion on the stroke of half-time to take the score to 18-13 as the players headed into the locker rooms.
Facundo Isa’s intercept of an inside ball from Derek Carpenter saw the back-row run in untouched to dot down under the uprights, Hernández adding the extras and to take the score to 25-16.
However excellent vision from playmaker Pisi saw him evade the rushing Jaguares’ defence which resulted in Carpenter scoring the second try for the Sunwolves, Pisi converting the try and reduced the visitors’ lead to 25-23.
As the match approached the final whistle it was a battle between Pisi and Hernández which saw the lead exchanging hands a few times.
Pisi got the better of his opposite number, the Samoan international handing the home side a slender 29-28 one-point lead as they entered the last ten minutes.
The home crowd got behind their team in the closing stages and were duly rewarded- a five-metre scrum allowing Pisi to send Tatekawa over for the winning try, as Pisi’s conversion saw the home side confirm an emphatic and memorable win for Japanese rugby.
Tries: Sasakura, Carpenter, Tatekawa
Cons: Pisi 3
Pens: Pisi 4, Viljoen
Tries: Creevy, Amorosino, Boffelli, Isa
Pens: Hernández 2
Sunwolves: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Viliami Lolohea, 13 Derek Carpenter, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 Mifiposeti Paea, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Atsushi Hiwasa, 8 Ed Quirk, 7 Andrew Durutalo, 6 Yoshiya Hosoda, 5 Liaki Moli, 4 Hitoshi Ono, 3 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 2 Shota Horie (c), 1 Masataka Mikami
Replacements: 16 Takeshi Kizu, 17 Ziun Gu, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Faatiga Lemalu, 20 Talyo Ando, 21 Kaito Shigeno, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Yasutaka Sasakura
Jaguares: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 12 Santiago González Iglesias, 11 Lucas González Amorosino, 10 Juan Martín Hernández, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Felipe Arregui.
Replacements: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Matías Orlando, 20 Rodrigo Báez, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Joaquín Paz, 23 Emiliano Boffelli
Referee: Jamie Nutbrown
Assistant Referees: Chris Pollock, Noriaki Hashimoto
TMO: Takashi Hareda