Japan’s Sunwolves earned a historic first ever victory in Super Rugby when they beat the Jaguares 36-28 at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo.
The two expansion teams made the contest an exciting affair as the lead changed hands several times in the final quarter. The Subwolves victory ends a seven match losing streak for the Japanese side.
The Jaguares outscored the Sunwolves by four tries to three but the final Japanese converted try, which was scored on full time, cost the Jaguares the losing bonus point as it took the winning margin to 8 points.
Both teams had extensive travel ahead of the match as the Sunwolves had just returned home from a tour in Singapore and South Africa while the Jaguares had played their last three matches in New Zealand and this was their fourth match in succession away from home.
The Sunwolves were guided to the victory by Samoan flyhalf Tusi Pisi who kept the Tokyo side in the game against the explosive Argentines, and kicked 18 points, including the penalty eight minutes from time which put them into the lead.
“To get this historic win in Japan is very special,” Sunwolves captain Shota Horie told reporters.
“We had to try to forget what happened in our last game and put everything on the line today and luckily we did that.”
The Sunwolves have endured a torrid first season in Super Rugby, with last week’s humiliating 92-17 defeat by the Cheetahs marking yet another low.
The Jaguares, who boast 13 of the Argentina side that reached last year’s World Cup semi-finals, looked set to snap a six-match losing streak as they opened a 13-8 halftime lead.
Captain Agustin Creevy crashed over early before Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino and Emiliano Boffelli added brilliant tries, but Juan Martin Hernandez missed all three conversions — which was to prove costly.
A converted try from Facundo Isa gave the visitors a 25-16 advantage before the Sunwolves, roared on by their army of howling fans, came storming back, sparked by a slashing try from New Zealander Derek Carpenter.
Pisi, who is set to join English second-tier club Bristol at the end of the season, held his nerve to fire the Sunwolves back in front 29-28 before Harumichi Tatekawa burst over with the final play to trigger wild scenes at the buzzer.
Before the match, the teams observed a minute’s silence for the victims of last week’s deadly earthquakes in southern Japan.
“We were deeply sorry not to be able to bring the people of Kyushu any relief in our last game,” said Horie.
“I would be very happy if this win can offer them some small hope at this difficult time.”
Two teams who have been criss-crossing the globe in recent weeks wilted as the second half wore on but Amorosino refused to blame fatigue.
“That’s the not the reason,” he said.
“This tournament is very hard for everyone. We have to look at the video and start again.”
The Sunwolves joined Super Rugby after Japan’s astonishing performance at the World Cup where the Brave Blossoms won three pool games, including a 34-32 shock upset over two-time champions South Africa.
But delays bringing in playing and coaching staff sabotaged the team’s preparations, and the squad’s lack of depth has been found badly wanting.
Next week the Jaguares return home to Argentina where they will host the third Super Rugby expansion team the Southern Kings. The Sunwolves have their second bye.
Final Score Sunwolves 36 (13) Jaguares 28 (18)
Tries – Y.Sasakura, D.Carpenter, H. Tatekawa
Pen – T.Pisi 4, R.Viljoen
Con – T.Pisi 3
Tries – A. Creevy, L.Amorosino, E. Boffelli, F.Isa
Pen -J.Hernández 2
Con – J.Hernandez
Referee: Jamie Nutbrown
Assistant Ref 1:Chris Pollock
Assistant Ref 2:Noriaki Hashimoto
TMO :Takashi Hareda
15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Viliami Lolohea, 13 Derek Carpenter, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 Mifiposeti Paea, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Atsushi Hiwasa, 8 Ed Quirk, 7 Andrew Durutalo, 6 Yoshiya Hosoda, 5 Liaki Moli, 4 Hitoshi Ono, 3 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 2 Shota Horie (c), 1 Masataka Mikami
Replacements: 16 Takeshi Kizu, 17 Ziun Gu, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Fa’ Atiga Lemalu, 20 Taiyo Ando, 21 Kaito Shigeno, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Yasutaka Sasakura
1- Felipe Arregui , 2- Agustín Creevy (C) , 3- Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro , 4- Guido Petti , 5- Matías Alemanno , 6- Pablo Matera , 7- Juan Manuel Leguizamón , 8- Facundo Isa , 9- Gonzalo Bertranou , 10- Juan Martín Hernández , 11- Lucas González Amorosino , 12- Santiago González Iglesias , 13- Jerónimo de la Fuente , 14- Ramiro Moyano , 15- Joaquín Tuculet
Replacements : 16- Facundo Bosch , 17- Facundo Gigena , 18- Enrique Pieretto , 19- Matías Orlando , 20- Rodrigo Báez , 21- Felipe Ezcurra , 22- Joaquín Paz , 23- Emiliano Boffelli