Sunwolves Hammered By Cheetahs

Home Side Start Well But Run Out Of Gas In Penultimate Home Game    

Cheetah's Ox Ache in action - Chris Pfaff, Inside Sport: Japan, May 27, 2017
Cheetah's Ox Ache in action - Chris Pfaff, Inside Sport: Japan, May 27, 2017

In a game reminiscent of their recent defeat to the Crusaders, the home side's kicking game was largely to blame, with the Cheetahs much more willing to play with the ball in hand and carve open the Sunwolves.

"It was a tough competition out there, especially in the first half, the Sunwolves' defence was exceptional. We dominated territory and possession enormously and they managed to keep us out," said the Cheetahs' Head Coach Franco Smith. "Fortunately, things went our way in the second half but the end result was not a true reflection of the quality of the side we played against."

 Cheetahs put Sunwolves on the back foot from early on - Chris Pfaff, Inside Sport: Japan, May 27, 2017
Cheetahs put Sunwolves on the back foot from early on - Chris Pfaff, Inside Sport: Japan, May 27, 2017

The Cheetahs started brightly, controlling play and forcing the Sunwolves into a kicking strategy that poured even more pressure on the home side. It took some dogged defending from the Sunwolves to keep the South African side at bay until the 16th minute, but Uzair Cassiem finally found a way through the tiring defence.

Then right on the stroke of half time, Niell Jordaan added another try for the Cheetahs after some patient build-up play to send the visitors in at the break up 14-0.

Things didn't get any better after half time, with Niel Marais immediately scoring another try for the Cheetahs. The fly half missed the conversion though, meaning the game was still within reach for the Sunwolves.

The Japanese side finally sparked into life shortly after the restart, with a clever kick from Fumi Tanaka leading to a Sunwolves scrum only 5 metres from the Cheetahs' try line. The home side were rewarded for their efforts, with Sam Wykes breaking the line and planting the ball beneath the posts in the 48th minute. With only 12 points separating the two sides and with plenty of time still left on the clock, the' crowd and players sensed a comeback.

Sam Wykes scores the Sunwolves' only try of the day - Chris Pfaff, Inside Sport: Japan, May 27, 2017
Sam Wykes scores the Sunwolves' only try of the day - Chris Pfaff, Inside Sport: Japan, May 27, 2017

It wasn’t to be however as the Sunwolves ran out of gas during the final quarter of the match and the Cheetahs suddenly found their ruthless side, scoring four tries in the last twenty minutes to run out comfortable winners.

"I thought in patches throughout the game we played reasonably well, at least until the 60th minute. But during the final quarter, we weren't great," said Sunwolves' Head Coach Filo Tiatia. "There is a certain trend where we are conceding points in certain periods of the match and it's something we need to rectify."

"There were plenty of opportunities that the Cheetahs presented us but we didn't take them. There were times where we could have regained possession but we weren't clinical enough to get on the ball and try and put pressure on the Cheetahs," Tiatia said.

Sunwolves were missing several players including Cripps and Quirk through injury - Chris Pfaff, Inside Sport: Japan, May 27, 2017
Sunwolves were missing several players including Cripps and Quirk through injury - Chris Pfaff, Inside Sport: Japan, May 27, 2017

Cheetahs' captain, Torstein van Jaarsveld, was happy with his team's performance and the way they controlled the match. "We pushed them really well into the corners and they didn't have other options but to kick the ball back, and it worked well for us," said the captain. "They started off defending really well but I think you can only defend for so long in a rugby match, and then they started to wear out. We got more yards and more gains, and then our backs finished it off late in the game."

Filo Tiatia couldn't hide his disappointment with the way the game finished and wanted fans to know that his team are still learning and looking to improve.

"We are all disappointed today. We've got the best fans that come and support the Sunwolves. The coaching staff, the organisation and the players were disappointed in the way we played today. We are trying and we understand we need to be better," he said.

- Lee Watkins: May 27th 2017

Cheetahs 47 - 7 Sunwolves

Photos: John Gunning  / Chris Pfaff May 27th 2017: Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground

Sunwolves / Cheetahs Captain's Run

Photos: John Gunning May 26th 2017: Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground

Sunwolves Go Down Fighting In Invercargill

The Sunwolves suffered another heavy defeat against New Zealand opposition on Saturday. This time against the Highlanders who notched up their fourth straight win with a 40-15 victory

Although the score was lopsided there were many positives to be taken from the match, with the Japanese team much more resilient in defence and potent in attack.

Most encouraging of all was the performance of the Sunwolves captain Ed Quirk, who had his best game of the season, racking up an impressive 15 tackles throughout the match.

The Sunwolves looked to be in for another long evening when the Highlanders scored a try with less than five minutes gone. A simple switch of play left the defence in disarray, allowing Fekitoa to jog across the line.

However, the Sunwolves immediately fought back. When Uwe Helu broke through but came up just short of the try line, William Tupou took advantage of the disorganized ruck and planted the ball between the posts. Unfortunately on review the try was ruled out for accidental offside.

Both teams attacked constantly, but had little to show for their efforts due to sloppy handling errors and knock-ons. Just four points separated the teams until the 35th minute but the Highlanders scored two quick tries to go into the break 18 points ahead.

Things didn’t get any easier for the tourists after the restart, with the New Zealand side crossing the line three more times within the opening 11 minutes. With the contest over, the Highlanders spent the final 30 minutes going through the motions, while the Sunwolves went in search of a consolation try or two.

First to catch the Highlanders napping was Willie Britz who broke free of his man and sprinted to the try line in the 59th minute. Back from South Africa after a family bereavement, Britz’s skill in the lineout and ability to get the Sunwolves over the gain line was much needed after their poor performance against the Crusaders the weekend before.

The Sunwolves’ forward pack as a whole looked much more menacing with the ball in hand this weekend, with Sam Wykes and Uwe Helu also breaking the line a number of times and helping put the Sunwolves on the front foot.

Next to cross the chalk was substitute Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco who picked up his second try of the season, after sustained pressure in Highlanders territory.

A Sunwolves comeback never materialized though, and neither team added points to the board.

So far this season, the Sunwolves have struggled against the New Zealand teams, conceding 173 points in three matches. The Japanese franchise will now head to Hamilton to play the Chiefs in the final leg of their New Zealand tour, and will need to be at their very best to avoid another heavy defeat.

- Lee Watkins: April 22nd 2017

Difficult Second Season Continues For Sunwolves

Only six days after their dramatic win against the Bulls, the Sunwolves were brought back down to earth with a crushing 50 - 3 defeat against the Crusaders in Christchurch

Most bookmakers had written off the away side's chances before a ball was kicked but with the Sunwolves surrendering possession and leaking tries, the match was actually done and dusted by half time.

 Conditions on the night didn't help, with some areas of the pitch resembling a swimming pool rather than a rugby field. The Sunwolves kicking game, which proved so effective against the Bulls, did little to help their chances either, with each kick up the pitch being punished by wave upon  wave of attacks.

Kieran Read marked his return from injury with the first try of the match in the 13th minute. A well-worked line out led to the All Blacks' captain powering his way over the line. Early on, the Sunwolves' defence had shown promise, repelling a number of attacks and stopping a driving maul. Once the scoring started however the floodgates soon opened and the Crusaders began to rack up the scores.

The Crusaders were relentless  in possession, with their forward players grinding down the Sunwolves from early on.

Even when the Crusaders had a player sin binned for a dangerous tackle  they continued to dominate possession, spreading the ball out wide. The player who benefited most from the added width was Manasa Mataele, who bagged himself a hat trick of tries before the game had even reached the halfway point.

The Sunwolves' first performance in New Zealand was instantly forgettable, with little in the way of creativity and guile. Yu Tamura's solitary penalty midway through the first half was all that they had to show from the match. 

With all of the points scored by the 60th minute, the last quarter of the match was a combination of Sunwolves' damage limitation and Crusaders' energy conservation. The win leaves the Crusaders undefeated this season atop the New Zealand Conference. The Sunwolves, on the other hand, are left with plenty to ponder, with one win from seven and more challenges to face down under.

- Lee Watkins: April 17th 2017