Rugby: Sunwolves foiled by Stormers' late rally

Derek Carpenter of the Sunwolves scoring a try against the Stormers yesterday, before the second-half fadeout to a 44-31 defeat.
Derek Carpenter of the Sunwolves scoring a try against the Stormers yesterday, before the second-half fadeout to a 44-31 defeat. ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Second-half collapse cuts deep as Japan side squander early lead and prospect of first win

The Sunwolves were thwarted by the Stormers as they chased their first win of the Super Rugby season yesterday, going down to a 44-31 defeat despite taking an early lead against the Stormers. 

The Japanese outfit, co-based in Singapore, shone in the first half at the National Stadium, pressurising the visitors and advancing with menace to take a 24-20 lead at half-time. 

But the South African side moved up a gear to mount a second-half comeback even as the Sunwolves lost momentum and surrendered the lead.

The Sunwolves remain winless after five Super Rugby games this season, while the Stormers have four wins from four matches. 

The match was marked by intense attacking, with both teams kicking the ball forward and chasing it down to gain possession high up in their opponents' halves.

This led to the Sunwolves taking the lead in the fourth minute, and allowing inside-centre Derek Carpenter to score an easy try two minutes later. 

But as the fans began to hope that the Sunwolves would finally end their losing streak, visible weariness on the part of their players changed the course of the game. 

Shaking his head in disappointment, Sunwolves fan Vincent Lim, 38, could only put his feelings into three words: "It's a shame."  

The Stormers emerged from the break hungrier and more aggressive. Captain and right flanker Siyamthanda Kolisi said: "We started to play direct attack, straight into the middle - not throwing the ball around like in the first half." 

While the Sunwolves have a bye next week, they will train rigorously to iron out their defensive errors. They had 31 missed tackles in the game while the Stormers had 16. 

Speaking at the press conference after the game, Sunwolves head coach Filo Tiatia said: "I'm still smiling after the game because we got them (Stormers) under a lot of pressure.

"But the reality is that we made some poor decisions in the game."

Stormers head coach Robbie Fleck echoed those sentiments: "We were always playing catch-up in the first half after giving away tries. But I'm pleased with my team's performance." 

Both coaches, however, agreed that the Sunwolves are an ever improving side.

With that in mind, Tiatia's men will be looking to seal their first win when they face the Bulls in Tokyo on April 8.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 26, 2017, with the headline 'Sunwolves foiled by Stormers' late rally'. Print Edition | Subscribe