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Sunwolves blow Blues away in Tokyo heat

Getty Images

Andy Burt     15 Jul 2017     Getty Images

Coming from the depths of a New Zealand winter, it was always going to be tough for the Blues playing in 42 degree heat in Tokyo. But there were to be no excuses against a team who had only won one game previously in 2017.

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While the Sunwolves ball handling, superior fitness and complex moves from set-piece were big keys to their success, it was surprisingly their defence that was most influential. After conceding a combined 146 points in the last two rounds, it looked like the Sunwolves were going to concede another big score as the Blues leapt to a 14-0 after ten minutes through tries to James Parsons and Gerard Cowley-Tuioti.

But – aside from an intercept runaway to Michael Collins – that was to be it for the Blues as the Sunwolves pressurised the Blues into error after error with their line speed and urgency on defence.

Tries before and after halftime are often crucial to the outcome, and the Sunwolves closed the gap from 21-7 to 21-19 with tries on either side of the break.
As the Blues tired in the extreme heat, the Sunwolves seemed to gain more energy. When Jerome Kaino was yellow carded for a high shot, the home-side sensed an opportunity and set for a lineout five metres from the line. Not renowned for their forward cohesion, the Sunwolves pack charged to the Blues line and were only denied when the maul was illegally pulled down. There was no choice for the referee but to award a penalty try and the Sunwolves had the lead for the first time.

There was to be no looking back from that point as the Sunwolves kept the ball alive in the final 20 minutes to add three more tries and starve the Blues of possession.

Impressive Sunwolves midfielder Timothy Lafaele was rewarded with a hat-trick while a try to replacement wing Yoshita Tokunaga at fulltime summed up the game for the Blues.

With a cross kick sailing into touch, Tokunaga latched onto a fortuitous bounce and looked to be wrapped up by two Blues defenders only to break loose and dive over for the Sunwolves eighth try. It was the icing on the cake of the Sunwolves finest performance in their history.

For the Blues, it was a sad way to end a season which had plenty of bright moments.

SCORERS: Blues 21 (James Parsons, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Michael Collins tries, Ihaia West 3 con) Sunwoves 48 (Timothy Lafaele 3, Keisuke Uchida, Kaito Shigeno, Yoshita Tokunaga tries, penalty try, Yu Tamura 3 con)
HT: 21-14