Sun, May 13, 2018 - Page 11 News List

Canterbury go top; Sunwolves bag historic win

AFP, TOKYO

Hayden Parker of Japan’s Sunwolves, second left, runs to score a try during their Super Rugby match against Australia’s Reds in Tokyo yesterday.

Photo: EPA

The Canterbury Crusaders yesterday produced a stunning fightback to regain the Super Rugby lead with a 31-29 win over the NSW Waratahs, while the Sunwolves thrashed the Queensland Reds 63-28 to record their first win.

Meanwhile, the Otago Highlanders cemented their hold on third place in the New Zealand conference, when Lima Sopoaga kicked them home 39-27 over South African leaders Golden Lions.

The Crusaders conceded 29 points to the Waratahs inside the first half hour of the clash between the top New Zealand and Australian sides, but once they worked out how to cut Israel Folau out of the game, they produced five tries and 31 unanswered points to snatch a narrow victory and move one point ahead of the Wellington Hurricanes.

Folau was exceptional for the Waratahs in the opening stages and scored two of their first four tries, but once the defending champions switched their game plan to starve Folau of possession, they came back with three tries in the closing eight minutes of the first half.

They added two more in the second spell while the Waratahs were punished for ill-discipline and spent nearly 20 minutes down a man with Nick Phipps and Taqele Naiyaravoro serving time in the sin bin.

Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock said it was obvious their opening plan did not work, but they were not panicked by the Waratahs’ strong start.

“We gave them the ball back early and they really punished us because of it. Once we chopped that, it started to turn in our favor,” Whitelock said.

Waratahs captain Michael Hooper blamed poor discipline, saying: “Two yellow cards. It’s hard to beat these guys with 14 men.”

The Crusaders, who have not lost at home to the Waratahs since 2004, extended New Zealand’s winning streak over Australia to 39 matches.

Meanwhile, Japan’s Sunwolves were celebrating their first win of the season and only their fourth since joining the competition three years ago.

Hosea “Tongan Godzilla” Saumaki scored a hat-trick of tries, while flyhalf Hayden Parker had a perfect day off the tee with 12 from 12 for 36 points in Tokyo, as they thrashed the Reds by a 35-point margin.

“You have to take the good with the bad, and we have had our fair share of bad,” Sunwolves coach Jamie Joseph said after they racked up their highest-ever points total and first victory against Australian opposition.

After losing the first nine matches of the year, there was little hint of what was to follow when the Sunwolves trailed 14-9 after 20 minutes, but a try by lock Grant Hattingh swung the momentum, and by halftime, the Sunwolves were up 29-14 before Saumaki’s second-half rampage set up the historic victory.

The Lions, beaten finalists last year, suffered their third consecutive loss when going down to the Highlanders in Dunedin.

Although they trailed the Highlanders throughout, they were in with a chance to snatch a late win when a Marnus Schoeman try narrowed the gap to 33-27 with seven minutes remaining.

However, Highlanders marksman Sopoaga landed two late penalties to put the result beyond doubt.

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