Super Rugby Notebook, Apr 23: Sunwolves thrilled to bounce back with maiden win
Sunwolves skipper Shota Horie revelled in a "very special" success after his side bounced back from last week's humiliating 92-17 loss to Cheetahs by recording their first victory in Super Rugby.
The competition's first Japanese franchise had endured a miserable start to the season, with last week's battering in Bloemfontein prompting sharp criticism from the likes of Eddie Jones and Nick Mallett.
However, Sunwolves showed character on Saturday to edge out fellow newcomers Jaguares 36-28 and win at the eighth time of asking - fly-half Tusi Pisi contributing 18 points and two try assists.
"To get this historic win in Japan is very special," said Japan international Horie.
"We had to try to forget what happened in our last game and put everything on the line and luckily we did that."
Elsewhere on Saturday, there were comfortable victories for the Waratahs, Stormers and Lions, but Chiefs were made to work extremely hard to extend their lead at the top of the New Zealand Conference with a 28-27 triumph over the Hurricanes.
Beauden Barrett once again proved highly influential with ball in hand for the Hurricanes, but the fly-half was left to rue five missed kicks at goal as Chiefs edged a game featuring four tries for each side.
Sunwolves 36-28 Jaguares
Another Sunwolves defeat appeared to be on the cards when they trailed 18-13 at the interval, but Pisi was integral to an admirable comeback and provided a fitting finale by laying on a match-clinching 79th-minute try for Harumichi Tatekawa.
Hurricanes 27-28 Chiefs
Chiefs came out on top in a thriller at Westpac Stadium, with Damien McKenzie's accuracy from the tee ultimately crucial as Barrett marred an otherwise superb display with a series of missed kicks. Seta Tamanivalu scored two tries for Chiefs - the second following a stunning offload from Toni Pulu inches from the line.
Western Force 13-49 Waratahs
Israel Folau moved clear of Lote Tuqiri as Waratahs' most prolific Super Rugby try-scorer, crossing for his 30th five-pointer in a dominant win over a disjointed Force outfit.
Stormers 40-22 Reds
Stormers trailed by five with half an hour remaining in Cape Town, but the Africa 1 Conference leaders collected 23 unanswered points thereafter to register a sixth win from eight matches in 2016.
Southern Kings 10-45 Lions
Armand van der Merwe and Ruan Combrinck helped themselves to two tries apiece as Lions romped past Southern Kings to retain control of the Africa 2 Conference.
THE KEY MOMENTS
Barrett brought Hurricanes to within one score with 11 minutes remaining - breaking the Chiefs line before exchanging passes with Michael Fatialofa and touching down. However, when the All Black made another break late on, Jason Woodward was unable to collect Barrett's pass and the Chiefs were able to hold on for victory.
Pisi kicked a 71st-minute penalty to edge Sunwolves ahead of Jaguares, before sparking jubilation on the stroke of full-time with a perfectly judged short pass that allowed Tatekawa to seal victory.
Dave Rennie acknowledged his Chiefs side "probably would've lost this game last year." He was quoted by stuff.co.nz as saying: "In fact, I think we played them here last year and were probably the better side and lost,
Sunwolves coach Mark Hammett reacted to his team's landmark win by saying: "I'm very proud. I had a bit of a tear-up in the [coach's] box."
Chiefs, Lions and Stormers all opened up useful leads at the top of their respective Conferences, while Southern Kings now prop up the South African Group as a result of their defeat and Sunwolves' long-awaited win.