Hurricanes Dominate Sunwolves in Season Opener
When a rugby team gets thumped by a massive score on the first game of the season, it can be difficult to find the positives, but in the case of the February 26th Sunwolves - Hurricanes match, there were a few rays of light.
After all, the Sunwolves won't be playing the reigning champions (Hurricanes) every week, won't have quite so many injuries, and will become more experienced as the season develops.
Parts of the match offered a glimpse into the Sunwolves' attacking threat, with Kenki Fukuoka setting up the first try for Riaan Viljoen, Hikaru Tamura and Timothy Lafaele producing some dangerous moments with the boot, Takaaki Nakazuru weaving his way through the Hurricanes' defensive line, and plenty of possession in the opposition's half.
Unfortunately, much like last season, a careless throw here and a lapse in concentration there, led to waves of counter attacks which left the Sunwolves' defence woefully exposed. Julian Savea's try in the 27th minute represented all that was brutal and efficient in the Hurricanes' attack and all that was wrong with the Sunwolves' defence; with the No.11, running on to a cross field kick and steaming past three Sunwolves' defenders.
It was a long afternoon for the Sunwolves with 83 points being put on them by the 60th minute. A masterclass from the Hurricanes, mixed with some very poor defending, meant that the game was done and dusted by the last quarter. However, during the final 20 minutes, the home side did manage to score two consolation tries, with Shokei Kin crossing the line in the 70th minute and then Willie Britz bulldozing his way through a determined Hurricanes' defence in the 78th minute.
Things weren't pretty in Chichibunomiya but at least the Sunwolves managed to chalk up three tries against the champions, looked very solid in the scrum, and some of their young guns, especially Hikaru Tamura, performed well under pressure.
Expect a much closer match against the Southern Kings next weekend in Singapore.
Star Man: Willie Britz put in a strong performance in the No.8 shirt. He drove the Sunwolves forward, was dogged in defence and scrum, and capped off the performance with a well deserved try.
- Lee Watkins: Feb 27th 2017