Rugby: Kings reign against Sunwolves

Timothy Lafaele, the Sunwolves' outside centre, shrugging off a tackle by the Southern Kings' Ruan Stephen Lerm at the National Stadium yesterday. Lafaele scored a try in the 22nd minute but the Kings won the Super Rugby encounter 37-23.
Timothy Lafaele, the Sunwolves' outside centre, shrugging off a tackle by the Southern Kings' Ruan Stephen Lerm at the National Stadium yesterday. Lafaele scored a try in the 22nd minute but the Kings won the Super Rugby encounter 37-23.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Inexperience costs new-look side dearly as first win in S'pore still proves elusive

It is the new season for the Sunwolves, but the same disappointing results still persist for the struggling Super Rugby side.

Despite playing against the easiest possible opponents - the Kings, who finished one spot above them at the bottom of the 18-team Super Rugby competition last season - the Sunwolves still could not manage a first win at their "second home" yesterday.

The Tokyo and Singapore co-based side suffered a 23-37 loss at the Singapore Sports Hub, in a match riddled with missed passes, dropped balls, and failure to retain possession.

A disappointed Sunwolves coach Filo Tiatia rued lost opportunities to score tries, saying: "We were not clinical enough to hold on to the ball, allowing the Kings to capitalise on these opportunities.

"We had plenty of opportunities to score points and we managed to put pressure on the Kings, we showed that we can score tries. But in these clinical moments, our execution and finishing were lacking."

Kenki Fukuoka, who scored the second of three tries for the Sunwolves, added: "We had a lot of chances and we should have done more with the ball. We've got to learn how to handle the ball better."

LESSONS FROM THE LOSS

We showed we can score tries. But in clinical moments, our execution and finishing were lacking.

FILO TIATIA, Sunwolves coach, assessing his side's performance.

Losses are becoming a familiar occurrence for the hosts, who endured a tough debut season last year, winning just one match.

They returned to the National Stadium for the first time this season, eager to get their first win here, after coming close to victory three times when they played at Kallang last year. Then, they lost two tight games (31-32 to the Cheetahs, 27-30 to the Bulls) and drew 17-17 with the Stormers.

Yet, yesterday's contest was not as close as their previous performances in Singapore, as inexperience showed for the Sunwolves, with scrum-half Fumiaki Tanaka and fly-half Hayden Cripps making their debuts and five other starters making just their second Super Rugby appearance.

Said Tanaka: "The ball slipped many times throughout the match and that gave us many problems."

But the Sunwolves remained upbeat as they boarded the plane late last night to South Africa to prepare for their next fixture against the Cheetahs on Saturday.

Tiatia said: "We felt that today was a lost opportunity to win due to individual lapses. But just like last year, when with every game we played, we got better, I think it will be no different this season."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 05, 2017, with the headline 'Kings reign against Sunwolves'. Print Edition | Subscribe