Last-gasp play gives Stormers late draw

Sunwolves fly-half Tusi Pisi (left) scoring one of his four penalty kicks against the Stormers in the dramatic 17-17 draw at the National Stadium yesterday.
Sunwolves fly-half Tusi Pisi (left) scoring one of his four penalty kicks against the Stormers in the dramatic 17-17 draw at the National Stadium yesterday.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Agony for Sunwolves at Kallang as victory bid thwarted again in nail-biter against Stormers

After two narrow losses by margins of just one and three points respectively, the Sunwolves probably came closest to victory this time.

Yesterday, they were just two seconds away from a win over the mighty Stormers in front of 8,749 fans at the National Stadium.

But the Sunwolves squandered a 10-17 lead - and the prospect of a first win in their series of three games at Kallang - when a late try by Vincent Koch and a conversion by Brandon Thomson earned a 17-17 draw.

That brought a sense of deja vu last night for the team, co-based in Japan and Singapore.

Just as they had blown an 18-point lead in their first match at Kallang in March to lose 31-32 to the Cheetahs, the Sunwolves led 17-3 with the prospect of an upset against the Stormers with only 20 minutes left - and let it slip.

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  • Biggest lead the Sunwolves built, at 17-3 over the Stormers, which they proceeded to throw away.

After victory had eluded his side once again, Sunwolves coach Mark Hammett still managed a wry smile and said: "It is frustrating having the (lead) close to full-time but not being able to finish. If we had stopped the game at the 78th or 79th minute, we'd have been hugely proud of the players.

"We were the better team and we played with the urgency that is needed.

"It's a feeling of 'sigh', it got away again."

Stormers coach Robbie Fleck admitted that the draw was a steal.

He said: "We certainly didn't deserve (the draw), we weren't good enough. Our execution was poor, we looked flat and it was a bad day in the office for us.

"And I can't pinpoint what made the poor performance."

The Sunwolves were unable to seal a win against an off-colour South African side and had to settle for a third agonising result in Singapore, ending their games on Singapore soil with two narrow losses (31-32 to the Cheetahs, 27-30 to the Bulls) and a draw.

Harumichi Tatekawa, 26, the stand-in captain for Shota Horie, who was rested, rued the missed opportunity to capitalise on errors by the Cape Town-based team.

The inside-centre said: "The players put their bodies on the line and we gave 100 per cent. But we didn't have the experience to finish the game off."

Entering the match heavily favoured to win, the South Africans looked lost and rusty in the first half with kicks going astray, missed line-outs, dropped passes and wild moments in ball-handling.

By contrast, the hosts displayed tactical nous which flummoxed the visitors with their frequent kicks and chipping.

The result aside, the Sunwolves can be proud of another sparkling showing by right winger Akihito Yamada, who became the league's top try-scorer when he landed his eighth try in as many games this season, with five of those tries coming at the National Stadium.

But Hammett faces the prospect of losing the 30-year-old after their one-month international break in June, as Yamada is hoping to be chosen for Japan's rugby sevens team for the Rio Olympics.

Looking back on his team's inability to win in Singapore, Hammett said: "This competition is bloody tough, isn't it?

"We have to roll up our sleeves to be mentally ready for the next week."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 15, 2016, with the headline 'Last-gasp play gives Stormers late draw'. Print Edition | Subscribe