The Sunwolves were handed a master class in defense and opportunity taking on Saturday as they went down to a 35-9 defeat to the Melbourne Rebels.
Melbourne’s back row of Sean McMahon, Adam Thomson and Jordy Reid dominated the breakdown, and together with their teammates, forced a number of turnovers close to their own line to ensure the Sunwolves suffered their third straight (and biggest) defeat in the team’s fledgling Super Rugby season.
Head coach Tony McGahan and assistant Zane Hilton used their experience of coaching in Japan to come up with the perfect game plan to take the Sunwolves back row out of the equation and McMahon and his fellow players followed it to a T at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.
The four tries they scored also ensured the Rebels leave Tokyo with a bonus point and a franchise best 3-1 start to the season.
“Our team showed a real growing maturity to withstand the Sunwolves’ attacks and play for the full 80 minutes,” said McGahan. “It shows our understanding of what Super Rugby requires to play like that against a top tough opposition away from home.”
His Sunwolves counterpart, Mark Hammett, felt his team had played better than in its previous two outings, but admitted it didn’t make the most of its chances.
“There were some issues around the skill set, especially the catch and pass. Perhaps some came down to the weather conditions. There were some questionable rucks when we got penalized close to their line and we didn’t work hard enough at times to get in support,” he said of his team’s failure to score a try despite a number of good opportunities.
Reid scored the first half’s only five-pointer in the 11th minute after the Sunwolves had grouped in midfield allowing the Rebels to go wide.
Jack Debreczeni added two penalties and Tusi Pisi kicked two for the hosts as the teams turned around with just five points separating them at 11-6.
Though it could and should have been a far different scoreline as the Rebels forced crucial turnovers on three occasions just meters from their own line.