Super Rugby

Highlanders put Sunwolves to the sword




The Highlanders hammered the Sunwolves 0-52 at a wet and windy Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo.

The game was over inside the opening quarter as the Highlanders ran in four tries with a masterclass in attacking rugby.

The Highlanders scored a try before halftime, and three after the interval, inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Sunwolves in front of another enthusiastic crowd in Tokyo.

The Sunwolves suffered from the start as their opponents seized control.

Hayden Parker did not miss a kick again, but it’s because he never had a shot at goal.

Tevita Li grabbed a brace as the Landers ran riot; the Japanese franchise, though, was lucky to get nil.

The Otago forwards dismantled their shell-shocked opponent’s scrum, and they scored their fifth from a powerful driving maul before halftime.

Super Rugby Video Highlights: Sunwolves versus Highlanders, Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo, Round 11, 2019

They won multiple penalties which eventually led to tighthead prop Hiroshi Yamashita being substituted before the half-hour mark.

Aaron Smith was magnificent on his return to the team; he was a terrier, kick-starting counter-attacks and causing havoc at the breakdown and back of the scrums.

The weather played a big part in the transition of attacks for Aaron Mauger’s men, who used the conditions expertly.

The Highlanders racked up 395 run-metres to 95 in the first half, winning six turnovers, multiple penalties in the tight phases and they enjoyed 63% territory and possession.

The Sunwolves are still winless at home

The defeat sets a new, unwanted record for six losses on the trot on home soil.

Influential skipper Dan Pryor pulled out before the game, which did not help, and his leadership was missed.

Shuhei Matsuhashi took his place on the openside, but he made no impact at the breakdown as the Kiwis dominated on the ground.

Matsuhashi’s mistake led to Li’s second try in the 52nd-minute.

It was an exhibition of slick handling and use of the conditions

A swirling easterly wind had brought the rain, which combined with Smith’s accurate kicking, made a mess of the Sunwlves’ back three.

Pin-point kicking kept the visitors inside their opponent’s half.

Once inside the red zone, the Kiwis were clinical, scoring at will as the Sunwolves wilted.

The visitors superior handling – and kicking game – was no match for their hosts. Where Otago was slick, the Sunwolves were sloppy.

Tom Franklin opened the scoring after not being held in the tackle by Yamashita – who had a nightmare.

Franklin crawled through the defence before getting up and running into the 22.

He played a one-two with the supporting Smith before crashing over.

The Sunwolves had their moments, few as they were, but could not convert.

They camped inside the Landers’ 22 for several minutes but could not turn pressure into points.

A second attacking scrum inside the 22 started the rot in the front row.

Smith and Franklin show

The New Zealander’s pack bulldozed their opposition, which kick-started another counter-attack when Smith snaffled the loose ball.

Franklin was involved twice, breaking the line and offloading a no-look pass to Rob Thompson, who raced into the 22.

The ball was recycled quickly to Franklin. Mo’unga, Luke Whitelock and Jackson Hemopo were all involved with some slick hands to put Tyrel Lomax away.

The burly prop still had to run over a defender for the five points.

Josh Ioane added the wide conversion, and the visitors led 14-nil after 13 minutes.

A minute later, it was 19-0 when Li strolled over in the corner.

Smith and Franklin were involved again, the scrumhalf going close a couple of phases before Ioane sent a long, skip pass to Li, who was alone on the sideline.

Ioane got in on the act soon afterwards.

It came from a lineout, this time. James Lentjes and Sio Tomkinson (playing on the right wing) combined at the back of the set-piece.

Tomkinson busted through three tackles before Fumiaki Tanaka brought him down.

Franklin carried. Smith got quick ball and spread the pill to Ioane.

The first-five spotted a gap, pulled a show-and-go selling Semisi Masirewa a hot-cake before ghosting through Rahboni Warren Vosayaco’s tackle. Try.

Tactical switch ends Yamashita’s nightmare

Yamashita night ended on 28 minutes when Takuma Asahara replaced the beleaguered prop, who had been given a torrid night by Daniel Lienert-Brown.

Tony Brown could not take it any longer, neither could his pack, and he made the switch.

It worked immediately as the Sunwolves won the free-kick and cleared their lines.

The Sunwolves managed to keep the visitors from crossing for 15 minutes, which was a feat in itself.

However, Liam Coltman finished off a powerful driving maul, flopping over the whitewash before halftime.

It was the second score in a row from the lineout.

Highlanders put their foot down and run riot after the break

Brown’s charges came out with intent after the break, but they could not break the Highlanders’ wall.

The Highlanders’ halfbacks’ kicking was exemplary as they continued to exploit the space behind the Sunwolves’ back three.

Li had his second, soon after the restart.

Parker’s mistake in midfield cost his side. The ball was snapped up by Lentjes and sent to Ioane, who saw the space in behind the wing and fullback.

He sent a raking grubber for Li. He beat Gerhard Van den Heever in a foot-race and scored.

Thomson got himself on the scoresheet after Ash Dixon put him away before the hour mark.

Dixon broke through a tackle and raced into the opposition’s 22 before offloading to Thompson.

The Sunwolves could not stop the bleeding despite creating several chances.

Brown’s side has been an inspiration since joining the competition, and they have become known for their ruthless attack.

They were error-strewn and blunt, ruining a few chances with poor handling and wayward passing.

With time running out, the Highlanders had another 5m scrum.

They demolished their opponents, won the ball and played the penalty-advantage.

Bryn Gatland knew Tomkinson was open on the opposite touchline.

He dropped a dime into the breadbasket of the wing, who gathered and flopped over the whitewash.

His try brought up the half-century for the visitors. Gatland couldn’t add the extras.

Masirewa had a try chalked off after a TMO review, keeping the Japanese scoreless – and winless at home.

Final Score: Sunwolves 0 (0) Highlanders 52 (33)


Tries –
Pen –
Con –
Drop –
Cards –

Tries – A. Smith, Lomax, Li (2), J. Ioane, Coltman, Thompson, Tomkinson
Pen –
Con – J. Ioane (5), Gatland
Drop –
Cards –

Match Officials
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Ref 1: Angus Gardner
Assistant Ref 2: Shuhei Kubo
TMO: Minoru Fuji



15 Ryohei Yamanaka, 14 Gerhard Van den Heever, 13 Josh Timu, 12 Rahboni Warren Vosayaco, 11 Semisi Masirewa, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Hendrik Tui, 7 Shuhei Matsuhashi, 6 Grant Hattingh, 5 Luke Thompson (captain), 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Nathan Vella, 1 Pauliasi Manu.

Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Alex Woonton, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Tom Rowe, 20 Ben Gunter, 21 Kaito Shigeno, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Jason Emery.


15 Matt Faddes, 14 Sio Tomkinson, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Luke Whitelock (captain), 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.

Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Sef Fa’agase, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 Shannon Frizell, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Dillon Hunt.

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