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Highlanders beat Sunwolves in Tokyo

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The Sunwolves have played the Highlanders just once before in Super Rugby, and the Highlanders came out on top.

This is only the second Super Rugby encounter between the Sunwolves and the Highlanders, the side from Dunedin winning the first meeting in Round 9, 2017, by a score of 40-15.

Match detail

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1.00: PEEEEP! We are underway at a wet and windy Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo.

2.00: Ryohei Yamanaka takes a high ball but he is held-up in contact and the Highlanders win the turnover.

4.00: Sio Tomkinson gatherers Aaron Smith’s cross-kick inside the Sunwolves’ 22, and the visitors are on the attack.

5.00: TRY! Aaron Smith combines with Tom Franklin for the scrum-half’s try. 0-5

6.00: CONVERSION! Josh Ioane adds the extras. 0-7

7.00: A good opportunity for the home team, they have a centre-field scrum on the Highlanders’ 22.

8.00: The scrum goes down: reset.

9.00: The Sunwolves are awarded a free-quick, which they take quickly. However, the New Zealanders knock on after almost winning possession. The Japanese have a scrum inside the 22 on the left-hand side of the 15-metre area.

10.00: BIG SCRUM! Aaron Smith picks up the loose ball after a big scrum by the visitors made a mess of the opposition’s pack.

12.00: TRY! Just like that! The Highlanders go down the field after Smith’s break. His box-kick puts the Kiwis inside the red zone. The ball was recycled to the right before Tyrel Lomax barged his way over in the corner. 0-12

13.00: CONVERSION! Ioane slots the sideline kick. 0-14

14.00: TRY! The Highlanders are dominant; they are dismantling the Sunwolves with box-kicks and high balls. Tomkinson collects another cross-kick to kick-start the attack. Otago recycles the ball quickly at the breakdown and they are pulling the Japanese apart. The ball is, eventually, sent to the left where Tevita Li walks over untouched. 0-19

16.00: MISS! Ioane can’t curl his attempt inside the posts. 0-19

19.00: Some superb work in the ruck sees the Highlanders win possession. It’s a slow build-up for a change, but the Kiwis go to the boot to find territory.

20.00: TRY! Ioane with a show-and-go dives over from five metres out. The first-five cannot be stopped from close range. The Sunwolves are disintegrating inside the opening 20 minutes. This game is already over. 0-24

21.00: CONVERSION! The standoff converts his own score. 0-26

23.00: The Sunwolves came into tonight’s game having made the most missed tackles in the tournament. Their porous defence is leaking like a sieve. They have no answers to the pace and power of their opponents. Tony Brown is pulling his hair out.

25.00: MASSIVE SCRUM! Another big scrum by the Kiwis earns the tourists another scrum-penalty. Ioane kicks deep into the opposition’s 22 to set up an attacking lineout.

26.00: Brown’s men survive; they have a lineout throw in the same position as the Landers had previously.

27.00: The ball is turned over, however, the ball is won back by the Sunwolves. All Gerhard Van den Heever can do is boot the ball down the field to release the pressure.

28.00: Another penalty to the visitors, this time for an infringement at the ruck. Takuma Asahara replaces Hiroshi Yamashita at tighthead. It’s the right call because the scrums have been a mess.

29.00: NO TRY! OH BOY! Aaron Smith sliced his kick – it almost went backwards – but Rob Thompson collects and scores. However, after a TMO consultation, referee Ben O’Keeffe rules out the score for obstruction by Teihorangi Walden. 0-26

30.00: Hayden Parker misses his touch-finder which keeps the pressure on his side. Somehow, the Landers lose the ball in contact giving the hosts a scrum. Let’s see what Asahara can do.

31.00: He does well, winning the free-kick, but the ball is turned over and the Highlanders come again. They have been relentless.

33.00: TRY! Coltman crashes over from close range. This time it came from the driving maul. The forwards recycle the ball to the back and shunt their way over the try-line. 0-33

34.00: CONVERSION! Ioane collects another two. 0-33

36.00: The Sunwolves need to stem the flow of attacks because this will get ugly.

38.00: The Highlanders have been relentless, they are running the Sunwolves ragged.

40.00: The hosts win a scrum, but I’m not sure their forwards are too happy.

41.00: Van den Heever starts an attack by running over Li, but the move is halted for a handling error.

The halftime score was Sunwolves 0 Highlanders 33

41.00: PEEEEP! We are back underway in Japan where the Sunwolves are being blown away.

44.00: The Sunwolves are enjoying a rare sustained attack inside the Highlanders 22. They win a penalty and opt for a lineout.

46.00: Luke Whitelock gets spoken to by the ref because of multiple infringements that included a high tackle and offsides. Curiously, the hosts opt for a tap-and-go.

48.00: The attack comes to nothing, and the Highlanders clear after getting the lineout after the Sunwolves threw a pass into touch.

51.00: The home team are enjoying some sustained ball possession, but they cannot find an opening.

52.00: TRY! Li has a double. The winger collects the grubber-kick and waltzes in for the score. 0-38

53.00: CONVERSION! Ioane brings up the forty-burger. 0-40

56.00: There is way too much space behind the Sunwolves’ back three and the Highlanders are exploiting it. another kick behind is gathered by Li. He races into the 22 and offloads, however, the ball goes loose and the home side gets a scrum for a knock on.

59.00: TRY! Thompson is over for the score after Dixon put him away. 0-45

60.00: CONVERSION! Bryn Gatland, taking over from Ioane, adds the extras. 0-47

63.00: TRY! Tomkinson gathers Gatland’s pin-point cross-kick and flops over the whitewash. 0-52

65.00: MISS! Gatland misses from wide. 0-52

67.00: The Sunwolves need something for their home support because they’ve been immense, especially in the inclement weather.

69.00: NO TRY! Semisi Masirewa thinks he has scored but after a TMO review, the replay shows a knock on and forward pass in the build-up. 0-52

73.00: The Highlanders have not relented, they are piling on the pressure, looking for more; always hungry for more.

76.00: Tomkinson smokes Yamanaka with a huge hit, winning possession.

79.00: One last attack by the home team, who are desperate to get on the scoresheet.

80.00: They are inside the opposition’s 22: can they get a try?

81.00: NO! Oh dear! The ball is turned over and kicked into the stands by Matt Faddes.


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The 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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