PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA – The Sunwolves again put themselves in a position to take their first Super Rugby win Saturday, only to suffer an all too familiar fall at the final hurdle as they went down 33-28 to the Southern Kings at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
A try by Elgar Watts off a tighthead scrum two minutes from time ensured Akihito Yamada’s last-minute five-pointer was nothing more than a consolation as the visitors were once again left to rue a number of missed opportunities.
“That first win is getting so close. We’ve just got to keep on working hard,” said Sunwolves captain Shota Horie.
The victory was the Kings’ first of the season and sees them jump one point above Japan’s Sunwolves in the South Africa Group standings.
“We always knew we could take them in the scrum and line-out and we really capitalized on that,” said Kings captain Steven Sykes.
It was the hosts who started best with Sykes powering over in the second minute as the Sunwolves gave up a turnover meters from their own line.
Louis Fouche added the extras and then increased the lead four minutes later with a penalty before Sunwolves flyhalf Tusi Pisi closed the gap with a kick of his own in the ninth minute.
The Sunwolves scrum struggled once again and an inability to win their own set piece soon led to Malcolm Jaer going over to put the Kings 5-3 up.
To their credit, the visitors hit back through Horie’s third try of the season and Pisi finishing off some great interaction between forwards and backs as the sides were brought level at 15-15.
But another dreadful scrum resulted in Fouche kicking a penalty and Shane Gates’ try in the 32nd minute put eight points between the teams.
Once again, though, the visitors hit back.
Pisi started the move with a chip-and-chase and the Sunwolves forwards and backs did well to create space for Timothy Bond, who sold a nice dummy to beat the final defender and go over to make it 23-20 at the break.
The second stanza started with Pisi and Fouche, who spent the 2014-2015 season in Japan playing for Ricoh Black Rams, exchanging penalties.
The Sunwolves then dominated proceedings, camping in the Kings’ 22, but were unable to turn it into points — turning down a number of simple shots at goal in search of five points.
“I’ve got no regrets on that. We thought we could score a try,” said Horie.
They also came up against a superb rearguard action from the Kings, meaning the scoreboard operator was not called into action again until those frantic final two minutes.
“The way we defended at the end shows a lot about this team,” said Sykes. “I didn’t think for one minute the guys lost faith that we could win this game.”
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