Pisi lifts Sunwolves to 1st win

Yasutaka Sasakura (left) scoring the first of the Sunwolves' three tries against the Jaguares in their Super Rugby match at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo yesterday, while the team (above) celebrate their maiden victory.
Yasutaka Sasakura (above) scoring the first of the Sunwolves' three tries against the Jaguares in their Super Rugby match at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo yesterday, while the team celebrate their maiden victory.PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY, REUTERS
Yasutaka Sasakura (left) scoring the first of the Sunwolves' three tries against the Jaguares in their Super Rugby match at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo yesterday, while the team (above) celebrate their maiden victory.
Yasutaka Sasakura scoring the first of the Sunwolves' three tries against the Jaguares in their Super Rugby match at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo yesterday, while the team (above) celebrate their maiden victory.PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY, REUTERS

Japanese side rally late to beat co-debutants Jaguares and break duck after 7 straight losses

TOKYO • Fly-half Tusi Pisi engineered the Sunwolves' first victory in Super Rugby yesterday, as the Japanese side upset the Jaguares 36-28 at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo.

It was a victory made in Samoa as the Singapore co-based side finally turned around a miserable run of seven successive defeats.

Pisi kept the Tokyo side in the game against the explosive Argentinians, booting 18 points, including the go-ahead penalty eight minutes from time.

"To get this historic win in Japan is very special," Sunwolves captain Shota Horie said. "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 who reached last year's World Cup semi-finals, looked set to snap a six-match losing streak as they opened a 13-8 half-time lead.

A SPECIAL MOMENT

I'm extremely proud. I had a bit of a tear-up in the (coach's) box and that's something I didn't think I would have before I came here.

MARK HAMMETT, a clearly emotional Sunwolves coach, after their bad run ended.

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 proved 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.

"I'm extremely proud," said Sunwolves coach Mark Hammett after an emotional afternoon. "I had a bit of a tear-up in the (coach's) box and that's something I didn't think I would have before I came here."

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.

The Sunwolves joined Super Rugby on the back of 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 exposed.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 24, 2016, with the headline 'Pisi lifts Sunwolves to 1st win'. Print Edition | Subscribe