Big Bad Wolves Give Reds Hiding Good
Parker-Inspired Hosts Claim First Ever Win Over Australian Side
The Sunwolves created history today, as they crushed the Reds 63-28 in a try-fest at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium.
The home side ran in six tries to the visitors’ four, but it was a stand-out performance by the Sunwolves’ fly-half, Hayden Parker that set the two teams apart.
Parker hit a team record 36 points with seven penalties, five conversions and a five-pointer while expertly marshaling his troops and constantly driving the opposition back with accurate tactical kicking.
It has taken 12 weeks for the Sunwolves to get their first win of 2018, but what an historic victory it was - downing Australian opposition for the very first time. Sunwolves Head Coach Jamie Joseph said of his team’s victory, “For me as coach of this team, it wasn’t a surprise. We’ve worked very hard. Our game has been improving, but also so has the caliber of the opposition and so we went to New Zealand and performed very well. As I say, every weekend we are looking at our game, our rugby is improving but we just haven’t been able to get over the line and get a win, so today for me the team just put everything together in the same match.”
The Sunwolves were dominant in most facets of the game and most importantly put the Reds under pressure on the scoreboard. The Queensland side were their own worst enemy at times, as poor decision making in their own half gifted penalties which Parker, with his magic boots on, took full advantage of.
Reds' Head Coach Brad Thorn said afterwards, “The Sunwolves played really well today in front of their fans. They were by far the better side. Hats off to Hayden Parker. He scored 30-odd points and with the boot he put us all around the park. They were also very good at the break down. As for us we weren’t looking sharp. Our basic skills were poor and we got exactly what we deserved. We just weren’t there mentally.”
The Sunwolves started the game positively with early possession and were quickly in front 6-0 following two Parker penalties. However it was the Australian side that scored the first two tries of the match both coming from driving mauls close to the try line. Hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa burrowed over for the first, then ten minutes later scrumhalf Ben Lucas sniped off the back after being told to use it by the referee.
Parker’s boot continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over for the home side however with two more penalties. At the 30-minute mark, the Sunwolves brought the crowd to their feet with a well-worked try for Grant Hattingh. The tall lock initially sent prop Craig Millar through the Reds’ defensive line with a neat pass before getting the ball back and barging over the line with two defenders hanging on. With Parker’s conversion, the Sunwolves regained a lead they would never relinquish.
With their tails up the home side started to take control of territory and ten minutes later were in again. It was a wonderful team try that began with wing Kenki Fukuoka gathering a grubber-kick. The ball was spread wide to Michael Little, who cut inside with two defenders on him and produced a wrap-around offload for Parker to run in under the posts. The Japanese side was powering away and finished off the first half with another penalty, which took the Sunwolves out to a 15-point lead.
Reds captain James Slipper said, “We knew what we were up against and you know that was a really strong Sunwolves team. They played really well and that’s what we got today. I thought the way we started the game we really put ourselves under pressure and we probably lost our way which is disappointing.” The second half produced an even better performance from the Sunwolves as winger Hosea Saumaki picked up a hat-trick and Parker continued with his perfect kicking display. The Tongan-born left wing scored in the 51st, 78th and 82nd minutes to complete the rout of the Reds.
There was also a penalty try awarded when replacement fullback Jason Emery intercepted a wayward Reds’ pass and sprinted 60 meters up-field only to be denied a five-pointer by a dangerous head high tackle. The Australian side managed two tries of their own with no.8 Angus Scott-Young smashing over the line after a 23-phase build-up. That was followed by a 75-meter try by right wing Filipo Daugunu on the counter-attack.
The day belonged to the Sunwolves however and they controlled the game with big defense and by creating space for their backs. Having Parker on their side was a massive advantage. Joseph added, “Just on the game, I thought it was a clinical performance. Our players were in control. They were very organized, very composed. I thought the display of skill by Hayden Parker was world-class and it’s those sorts of things that create confidence in the team so we can take that and build for next week which is against the Stormers in Hong Kong.”
- Todd Phillips: May 12th 2018
Sunwolves 63 - 28 Reds
Photos: Chris Pfaff May 12th 2018: Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground
Sunwolves Aim For Complete Performance Against Reds
Returning from a bye week, the Sunwolves should be well rested when facing the Queensland Reds today at Tokyo’s Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium. Last weekend’s rest followed two matches in New Zealand against both the 2016 & 2017 Super Rugby champions (Hurricanes and Crusaders). Despite tough losses to both of those sides, the Sunwolves were competitive, even dominating territory and possession for periods of each game. The Japanese outfit however couldn’t land a killer blow and failed to get across the whitewash enough to exert pressure on the scoreboard.
Another issue was the defense tiring in the last quarter allowing the opposition to quickly rack up points. “We performed reasonably well in certain parts over the last couple of games so we’ve just got to make sure we get closer to playing an 80 minute performance than a 50 or 60 minute performance. If we can do that, we’re in with a chance.” said Sunwolves Assistant Coach Tony Brown. “We’re creating a lot of opportunities and we’ve just got to get better at crossing the line.” The Reds coached by ex-All Black Brad Thorn have had a mixed season so far recording just four victories in nine games and currently lie third in the Australian Conference.
The visitors are also coming off a bye and should be confident after their mauling of the Lions last time out in Brisbane. Thorn said, “There’s no underestimation of the Sunwolves. They’ve got very good coaches and very good players and they’ve been close in quite a lot of games. They’ll be competing hard along with us tomorrow.” The two teams have met just once before. That 2016 match ended in a 35-25 home win for the Australian side. The current season has not been kind to the Sunwolves as they are still searching for a first win. It’s a situation their opponents today can sympathize with. “We had a four game losing streak. You just have to persevere, you have to work hard and you have to stay positive,” Thorn said. “We are in a similar position. In recent years we have struggled every year and we are working hard as well, to play some positive rugby. So I can understand where the Sunwolves are. We are equally trying to work hard, trying to keep improving and see if we can get some results as well.”
The Sunwolves team named to play the Australian side sees Wimpie Vanderwalt, make his first start of the season, coming in for the concussed James Moore at lock. Michael Leitch replaces the outgoing Pieter Lappies Labuschagne at blindside flanker. Labuschagne, arguably the Sunwolves’ best forward, was only contracted to play for the Japanese Super Rugby side until the end of April and has since moved back to his local Chiba rugby club, the Kubota Spears. After suffering a rib injury in week six against the Chiefs, Leitch is back in the fold and will link up with no. 8 Kazuki Himeno and former Reds player Ed Quirk to form the back three. Quirk played for the Reds from 2010 to 2015.
The backs see one positional change as Semisi Masirewa moves from right wing to fullback as a replacement for regular no. 15 William Tupou. On the reserve bench utility back Jason Emery makes a return from an injury sustained in the very first game of the Sunwolves’ Campaign. Today's game offers several juicy match-ups. It will be a tight tussle for lineout supremacy between 2.02 meter Kane Douglas who will run out for his 100th cap for the Reds and 2.01 meter Grant Hattingh.
Recently departed Suntory Sungoliath flanker George Smith will be scrapping it out with Leitch at the break-down. Another player that has experienced Japanese club rugby (at Toyota Verblitz) is scrumhalf Ben Lucas. He will be up against the home team’s captain Yutaka Nagare. Perhaps the most dangerous player in the Queensland side though is Wallaby center Samu Kerevi.
He will be marked by one of the best performing Sunwolves in Michael Little.
Reds’ captain James Slipper said, “George Smith and Ben Lucas obviously they know a few of the Japanese players playing here. They haven’t given too much away but we have kind of been focusing on ourselves this week. We’re not too worried about who we’re up against in terms of individual players. We’ve got to go out there and play well. It’s as simple as that.”
All season the Sunwolves have been struggling to find consistency with their set piece and like every team before them, the Reds will certainly test the hosts in that area tomorrow. “If you look at our game we tend to like our set piece and we’ve worked hard in that area. So we’re not underestimating any team in this competition let alone the Sunwolves,” said Slipper “I know they haven’t won a game, but they’re still competitive and at times they can be very good at set piece. It’s going to be a tough game and we’ve got to turn up and be ready to go.”
- Todd Phillips: May 12th 2018
Sunwolves / Reds Captain's Run
Photos: Chris Pfaff May 11th 2018: Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground