The Blues survived a potential upset, coming back to beat the Sunwolves 10-24 at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo.
Jordan Hyland bagged a brace as the Blues fought back from 10-nil down to ride out comfortable winners and gain their revenge.
Akira Ioane scored his seventh try in as many matches and had one chalked off for being held-up.
For 50 minutes, it looked as though the Blues would suffer a similar fate to last season’s 48-21 humiliation at the hands of the Sunwolves.
The New Zealanders were all over the place in the opening half-hour but halved their deficit to five when Hyland crossed in the 28th-minute, cancelling out Timothy Lafaele’s well-worked try.
The Sunwolves dominated early proceedings after some scintillating rugby, but they did not score another point after Lafaele’s 23rd-minute try.
The Blues shut out wave after wave of Japanese attacks, finally taking control after the interval when Akira Ioane and Dalton Papali’i scored with two super finishes.
Hyland cruised in for his second as the clock was ticking down, but the game was over well before.
Sunwolves start hot.
The opening exchanges were played at a frantic pace; the Sunwolves running everything and everything from everywhere.
They dominated the breakdown and the gain-line as well as finding space in the midfield and the outside channels.
The Auckland side was reeling under the intensity of the pressure being out on their defences. Their host’s up-tempo rugby wreaking havoc.
Yu Tamura kicked an early penalty after Patrick Tuipulotu, playing in his 50th Super Rugby match, was yellow carded for a high tackle on Lomano Lemeki.
Semisi Masirewa knocked on an intercept after a careless offload by Michael Collins, but no points were scored while Tuipulotu was in the sin-bin – something of a miracle.
The Sunwolves were sold in the scrum and even stole a lineout before the game’s opening score.
Hayden Parker, on for Tamura who was off for a head injury assessment, played a sublime offload to Lafaele, who crossed in the corner.
It all started with some furious pick-and-goes and cleanouts at the breakdown by Pieter Labuschagne and Craig Millar. Parker added the extras.
The Blues were under the pump but won an important turnover and scored against the run of play.
The Kiwis, finally getting some possession, went several phases before Stephen Perofeta’s long, wide pass set-up Hyland’s first try.
The winger bumped off Tamura and Kotaro Matsushima defenders to score.
The momentum changed after that as the Blues found their rhythm, going 15 phases with pick-and-drives on the Sunwolves’ goal-line.
They did not score, however. The home side’s defence was solid, keeping their illustrious opponents at bay.
Blues pulled away after the break.
Hyland went close, soon after half-time. Jamie Joseph’s side was getting battered and they folded, despite some big defence by Gavin Hattingh, Michael Little and Kazuki Himeno.
Hattingh ripped the ball off Matt Duffie, but from the resulting madness, where two more turnovers took place inside 30 seconds, the home team won a penalty.
This is where the Sunwolves do not do themselves any favours, showing their inexperience at the top level of international club rugby.
Instead of taking the points with an easy penalty in front of the poles and making it an eight-point game, they opted for a scrum.
Referee Nick Briant was refereeing the set-pieces as one would play Russian Roulette, awarding penalties and free-kicks to either side, every other scrum or lineout.
The Sunwolves were duly punished, conceding a penalty for something.
Less than sixty seconds’ later, Akira Ioane finished like his brother, Rieko.
The No 8 gathered Collins’ skip-pass, shrugged off Lafaele and Matsushima on his way to the try-line for the game levelling score.
The momentum was all with the visitors, who turned on the style.
It was soon 10-19 when Papali’i took Kara Pryor’s long pass and danced through some weak tackling to score a stunning individual try.
Papali’i beat Matsushima and Parker, cut inside Willie Britz, and sped away from Hattingh,
He then swerved a cover defender, side-stepped Lafaele and slid in for a sensational five-pointer.
Akira Ioane thought he had a second, but on TMO review, it was adjudged that he was held up.
It was inconsequential because Hyland finished off the Sunwolves, six minutes from time.
Rieko Ioane’s cut-out pass, after some quick ruck ball, put the 28-year-old away for his double.
Final score: Sunwolves 10 (10) Blues 24 (5)
Tries – Lafaele
Pen – Tamura,
Con – Parker
Tries – Hyland (2), A. Ioane, Papali’i
Con – Perofeta (2)
Cards – Tuipulotu (Yellow, 3′)
Referee: Nick Briant
Assistant Ref 1: Shuhei Kubo
Assistant Ref 2: Tasuku Kawahara
TMO: Minoru Fuji
15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Semisi Masirewa, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Michael Little, 11 Lomano Lemeki, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Yutaka Nagare (captain), 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 James Moore, 3 Jiwon Koo, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Craig Millar.
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Shintato Ishihara, 18 Nikoloz Khataishvili, 19 Wimpie van der Walt, 20 Willem Britz, 21 Fumaiki Tanaka, 22 Hayden Parker, 23 William Tupou.
15 Michael Collins, 14 Jordan Hyland, 13 Orbyn Leger, 12 Rieko Ioane, 11 Matt Duffie, 10 Stephen Perofeta, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Kara Pryor, 6 Jimmy Tupou, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ross Wright, 18 Mike Tamoaieta, 19 Ben Neenee, 20 Dalton Papali’i, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 TJ Faiane.