The Sunwolves meet Auckland’s Blues in this contest for the first time in Super Rugby history.
The Blues have missed out on the Super Rugby playoffs, so they will be playing for “pride” this weekend.
It has been a tough initiation to the southern hemisphere’s premier competition for the Japanese franchise, winning once against the Bulls.
The Blues are the second New Zealand team to play in Japan since the Hurricanes, who won was an 83-17 in the opening round of the competition.
The Sunwolves return home after two heavy defeats on tour in South Africa – 94-7 to the Lions and 52-15 to the Stormers.
We are waiting for the kick-off.
1.00: BEEP! BEEP! We are underway for the last time in 2017 at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo. South African referee Rasta Rasivhenge gets us going.
2.00: The first scrum of the match goes to the Blues, inside their 22.
5.00: Some big hits coming from the Sunwolves; Charlie Faumuina and Ihaia West getting tackled backwards by two players. The Blues win a penalty and kick to the opposition’s 22.
6.00: The Sunwolves win a penalty at the breakdown, on their try line, and they celebrate as if they have scored. Willie Britz is slapping all his forwards on their backs. Good defensive work by the home team.
9.00: TRY James Parsons! Steven Luatua made the initial break on the right-hand touch line before throwing (what seemed to be a forward pass). The Blues went 16 phases, punching up around the fringes of the ruck, before scoring: 0-5
10.00: West converts from wide: 0-7
13.00: TRY Gerard Cowley-Tuioti! The lock started the move after winning the turnover and shovelling the ball to Matt Duffie before rounding the move off after Luatua’s offload near the side line: 0-12
14.00: West converts another side line kick: 0-14
16.00: It is all a bit too frenetic for the home team; they are making silly handling errors, gifting possession back to the Blues when they need to be cool, calm and collected. Their first time tackling has been impressive, but they are being hit with counter-attacks after turnovers.
17.00: TRY Timothy Lafaele! The Sunwolves launched a spirited comeback, going through the phases inside the Blues’ 22. Lafaele drove through two defenders to score under the posts and to the delight of the home support: 5-14
18.00: Yu Tamura converts the simple conversion: 7-14
20.00: West pins the Sunwolves inside their 22 after good penalty clearance.
21.00: Tamura starts a counter-attack with a break in midfield after taking Lafaele’s offload after a give-and-go with the try scorer. Tamura pops back to the centre, who charges down the field and into the Blues’ 22 before being tackled and losing the ball.
22.00: Lafaele again! He is having a beast of a match. The Sunwolves are playing with abandon, running everything; it is just their handling in the red zone that is letting them down. It is very hot in Tokyo today – 33 degrees and very humid, so the players stop for a quick water break.
24.00: Scrum to the home team, just inside blues’ territory.
25.00: A promising move – started by Lafaele and William Tupou – comes to nothing. After six phases and advancing into the Blues’ 22, they cough up possession; scrum to the visitors.
26.00: TRY Michael Collins! The fullback intercepts Tamura’s telegraphed pass to Lafaele and runs 70 metres to score: 7-19
27.00: West slots his third conversion of the afternoon: 7-21
29.00: Collins’ try came after some excellent work by the Sunwolves. It is their impatience with the ball in hand, inside the scoring zones that keeps letting them down. Another handling error by William Tupou with the try line at his mercy proves costly. It was some great defending by the Blues to strip the ball from the centre in the tackle.
31.00: Kenki Fukuoka started the previous move with another side-step to beat the covering defenders. He’s been impressive today and in had a good season.
33.00: Most of the play is taking place inside the Kiwis’ half. Tamura is tackled and penalised for not releasing after Riaan Viljoen counter-attacked a return kick by West.
34.00: Koo Jiwon wins an important turnover penalty at the breakdown which, almost certainly, stopped another blues’ try; good work and body position by the tight head prop.
35.00: Kotaro Matsushima’s football skills saved the day for his team. The wing hacked a loose ball forwards, stopping the Blues attack and giving some respite to the Japanese side.
37.00: Fukuoka puts up a bomb, loses the challenge with Augustine Pulu, but Akira Ioane loses the ball forward. From the scrum, the Sunwolves go to the open side and Viljoen kicks a grubber, in behind the Blues’ back three, but the ball rolls out deep inside the opposition’s 22.
39.00: TRY Keisuke Uchida! Sensational from the home team. Viljoen took the initial crash ball and was hit by two Blues’ defenders. The Sunwolves recycle the ball quickly and Matsushima throws a pass to Yoshitaka Tokunaga, who cuts inside and offloads to the supporting scrumhalf for the score: 12-21
40.00: Tamura makes it a one-score game with another conversion: 14-21
The half-time score was Sunwolves 14 Blues 21
41.00 BEEP! BEEP! We are back underway in the Land of the Rising Sun after a pulsating first-half in Tokyo. The Blues started on fire with three tries before the Sunwolves hit back with two goals of their own to make it a seven-point ball game.
44.00: The Sunwolves start with some early possession, taking the ball up through their big ball carriers and putting in little grubbers behind the Blues’ back three. some more possession is lost after Gerard Cowley-Tuioti strips the ball in the tackle. Another turnover sees the ball given back to the Sunwolves with a poor kick by West.
45.00: Yu Tamura sends a ball into touch with a deft kick which MichaelCollinss cannot gather.
47.00: Blake Gibson saves the day with a huge tackle on the rampaging Malgene Ilaua and then the blues win the penalty at the breakdown.
49.00: It is all Sunwolves in the opening exchanges of the second-half; it is only their handling that is letting them down. This time, William Tupou knocks on in the tackle, giving possession back to the visitors.
51.00: Collins is tackled high, West kicks to the corner and the Blues will have an attacking lineout inside the Sunwolves’ 22. Willie Britz and Kotaro Matsushima combined to launch the counter-attack from inside their 22 before Riaan Viljoen’s kick was brought back by Collins.
53.00: Some impatience by the Kiwis see Matt Duffie’s pass end up in touch. The Sunwolves have the defensive lineout inside their 22. They set up a ruck and Keisuke Uchida clears to halfway.
54.00: TRY Ryohei Yamanaka! Uchida, under immense pressure, kicks forward to the Blues’ goal line. William Tupou tackles the defending Blues’ player, who loses the ball in the tackle before the substitute dives on the loose ball to score: 19-21
55.00: After the TMO awards the try, Tamura misses the conversion: 19-21
56.00: Melani Nanai drops a high kick under pressure and the home team have an attacking scrum, inside the Blues’ half.
57.00: YELLOW CARD! Rasta Rasivhenge is checking with the TMO Minoru Fuji for a high tackle on Tupou by Jerome Kaino. The contact is on the centre’s head, so is going into the sin-bin.
59.00: TRY PENALTY TRY! Britz collects the lineout and the Japanese forwards rumble towards the Blues’ try line. They cannot stem the driving maul and the referee awards the penalty try for collapsing the maul: 26-21
63.00: Britz wins another turnover, the Sunwolves kick behind the Blues and win the scrum after pressure by Kenki Fukuoka on Matt Duffie, earns the home team an attacking scrum on the Blues’ five-metres line, near the touch line.
64.00: BIG SCRUM by the Japanese; Britz flicks the ball between his legs to Uchida, but the scrumhalf passes the ball forwards and into touch.
65.00: TRY Kaito Shigeno! The Sunwolves win the turnover, go wide and after three phases of crash ball, Shigeno crashes over the whitewash: 31-21
66.00: The conversion is pulled wide: 31-21
69.00: TRY Timothy Lafaele gets his second! It came after Uchida hacked through a dropped pass by Pauliasi Manu, gathered the kick and sent the centre away for the score: 36-21
70.00: Jumpei Ogura cannot extend his teams well-deserved lead: 36-21
74.00: OH DEAR! The Sunwolves go the length of the field after Britz stole a Blues’ lineout inside the Sunwolves’ 22. They go down the field before Shuhei Matsuhashi knocks on with the try line at his mercy, and for what would have been the game-winning score. The Blues are still in with a chance.
76.00: TRY! HAT-TRICK for LAFAELE! The blues botch their exit strategy and the centre scores his third; way too easy: 41-21
77.00: Ogura slots the side line conversion: 43-21
79.00: TRY Yoshitaka Tokunaga! The home team is not finished, yet. A lovely chip kick was gathered on the touch line by the Sevens player and after shrugging off a defender, he burst away to score: 48-21
80.00: The conversion is missed, but not a chance to go into the history books.
The final score after 80 minutes is Sunwolves 48 (14) Blues 21 (21)
Tries – Lafaele (3), Uchida, Yamanaka, Penalty Try, Shigeno, Tokunaga
Con – Tamura(2), Ogura
Tries – Parsons, Cowley-Tuioti, Collins
Con – West (3)
Cards – Kaino (Yellow, 57th minute)
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant Ref 1: Akihisa Aso
Assistant Ref 2: Tasuku Takawahara
TMO: Minoru Fuji
15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 William Tupou, 12 Timothy Lafaele, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Keisuke Uchida, 8 Willem Britz, 7 Shuhei Matsuhashi, 6 Malgene Ilaua, 5 Uwe Helu, 4 Kotaro Yatabe, 3 Koo Jiwon, 2 Takeshi Hino, 1 Koki Yamamoto.
Replacements: 16 Yusuke Niwai, 17 Keita Inagaki, 18 Yasuo Yamaji, 19 Yuya Odo, 20 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 21 Kaito Shigeno, 22 Jumpei Ogura, 23 Ryohei Yamanaka.
15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 George Moala, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Ofa Tu’ungafasi.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Josh Goodhue, 20 Jerome Kaino, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Stephen Perofeta, 23 Rene Ranger