Sunwolves earn first Super Rugby win in Australia
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A week after learning they are to be axed from Super Rugby, Japan's Sunwolves delivered a withering riposte to tournament organizers by beating the New South Wales Waratahs 31-29 on Friday.
The Sunwolves posted their first ever win in Australia after winger Semisi Masirewa scored three tries and flyhalf Hayden Parker, in his 50th match, maintained a perfect goalkicking record for the season — 27 from 27.
They lost to the Waratahs by one point in Tokyo this season but turned the tables in Newcastle, holding onto a two-point lead for 16 minutes to upset the Australian conference leaders.
Super Rugby organizers SANZAAR have ruled the Sunwolves will be dumped from the tournament after 2020. But that decision seemed untimely as the Sunwolves improved on a season in which they have also claimed their first win in New Zealand.
"It's been a tough couple of weeks on the field and off," Sunwolves captain Dan Pryor said. "But the boys have put it behind them and they put in a performance tonight.
"They just dug deep. I asked in every huddle, 'Just keep working, keep working,' and they did."
The Waratahs shocked the Sunwolves with a try after 90 seconds and led 12-3 before the Sunwolves rallied with tries to Masirewa and Grant Hattingh to led 17-12 at halftime. They led at halftime in their previous two matches against Australian teams before losing but avoided that fate on Friday.
The Waratahs went ahead with a try to Michael Hooper after two minutes of the second half but Masirewa struck twice within two minutes to give the Sunwolves a lead they were able to defend.
A week after beating the defending champion Crusaders, the Waratahs suffered a stinging defeat.
"Crashed back to earth there," Hooper said.
Earlier, the Crusaders bounced back from their loss to the Waratahs with a commanding 32-8 win over the Wellington-based Hurricanes.
Fullback David Havili scored two tries as the Crusaders outclassed a Hurricanes team full of talent but stricken by handling errors.
The Hurricanes had as much ball as the Crusaders and as many scoring chances but made 15 handling errors to seven and more than 30 errors overall to concede any winning chance.
In contrast, the Crusaders eliminated the handling mistakes that contributed to their loss to the Waratahs.
"Last week was tough," Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock said. "A six-day turnaround was great for us. The boys wanted to get on the horse straight away. They were really keen to come here, a place where we haven't had a lot of luck lately."
Many of the Hurricanes' problems centered on All Blacks flyhalf and two-time world rugby player of the year Beauden Barrett, who conceded one try from an intercepted pass and another from a wayward kick. Barrett's skills remain obvious but his tactical mistakes, especially his misjudged kicking, have been costly and he may be more effective at fullback.
All Blacks captain Kieran Read returned to the Crusaders for his first match of 2019 and played a quiet role in the first half before being replaced.
The Crusaders' physical impact came from Whetu Douglas on the blindside flank. Bryn Hall had a strong game at scrumhalf and Ryan Crotty's strength in midfield was a key part of the Crusaders' efficient finishing.