Sunwolves boss Mark Hammett hailed his side's performance despite suffering a 26-13 loss to the Lions in Tokyo on Saturday.
The home side, who were making their Super Rugby debut, were expected to struggle but delivered a competitive effort and Hammett praised his side's commitment.
"We're very proud of the whole group and effort that's gone into a very, very short time in preparation to get this game started," he told reporters after the match.
"We can always handle losing if we know that our players had given their everything."
The Sunwolves impressed on attack and breached the Lions defence on several occasions but they couldn't match their opponents' physicality.
"On attack, we showed that we can keep up with the pace of the game. That was not a problem. The speed we're comfortable with, it's the physicality we need to be better at," added Hammett.
Sunwolves skipper Shota Horie echoed his coach's sentiments and was encouraged by his side's showing.
"The Lions were very strong physically, pushing us back behind the advantage line on many occasions," he said.
"But we also showed we can defend well.
"A defeat is hard to swallow but the season has just started and we hope to build from this game."