Sunwolves win big in first game

Date published: February 13 2016

Sunwolves ran out 52-24 winners against a Top League XV in their only warm-up match prior to their maiden Super Rugby campaign.

It took less than a minute for the Top League XV to register their first, and what would prove to be, only try of the first half. Suntory Sungoliath’s Shota Emi cleverly intercepted a wayward pass within the opening 60 seconds and ran in for five points, with the conversion successful.

Centre Yasutaka Sasakura, who had been in terrific form during the Top League campaign with champions Panasonic, replied for the Sunwolves a few minutes later in the corner to notch the club’s first ever points. Samoan Tusi Pisi was off-target with the extras though.

Pisi’s cross-field kick was then well collected by full-back Riaan Viljoen and the Springbok recorded his first try in the sunset orange of Sunwolves. The conversion was converted by stand-off Pisi, before Viljoen added a second try minutes later, converted again, to make the score 19-7 to the Super Rugby team.

Pisi was pulling the strings in midfield for Sunwolves, linking up well with fellow Suntory man and scrum half Atsushi Hiwasa. The Samoan ran in a fine solo effort 10 minutes before the interval and added the two points himself to ensure Sunwolves were 26-10 to the good at half-time, following a late penalty by the Top League XV.

Widespread changes for both sides in the second half meant it was difficult for either side to grasp control of the game.

Yu Tamura replaced Pisi at the break, with the Samoan surely making sure of the number ten shirt in a fortnight’s time when Sunwolves host Lions in their season opener.

Australian Ed Quirk, one of the few Sunwolves players to retain their place in the second half, added another five points to the Japanese club’s growing points tally following a driving maul. Replacement Tamura added the extras.

Another replacement, Akihito Yamada, who only this week returned from Sevens duty with Japan in Sydney, touched down in the corner on the 55-minute mark to hand Sunwolves a 30-point lead. Taiyo Ando replied soonafter for the Top League XV to somewhat reduce the deficit.

Ziun Gu and Yamada, his second, both added further late tries in the second half as both sides’ defences were breached far too often for Super Rugby level. Yamaha Jubilo’s Chikara Ito added a consolation try for Top League XV to bring the final score to 52-24.

For Sunwolves:
Sasakura, Viljoen 2, Pisi, Quirk, Yamada 2, Gu
Cons: Pisi 3, Tamura 2, Yamanaka

For Top League XV:
Emi, Ando, Ito
Cons: Matsushita, Ogawa, Onishi
Pen: Matsushita

by Oliver Trenchard in Tokyo