SINGAPORE – The Sunwolves came within seconds of a famous win Saturday as they drew 17-17 with the Stormers at Singapore National Stadium.
A try by replacement prop Vincent Koch converted by Brandon Thomson in the 80th minute saw the Stormers snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat.
“It was very unfortunate,” said Sunwolves captain Harumichi Tatekawa. “We were confident if we played at 100 percent we could put in a performance like this. To play like this against a top-ranking South African side like the Stormers was good and hopefully we can learn from it and win the next game.”
A disciplined performance and a well-executed game plan was at the heart of the Sunwolves’ effort.
The Stormers came into the game top of the South African Group with six wins from nine games, including a 46-19 victory over the Sunwolves in Round 7 in Cape Town.
But it was the Sunwolves, who had lost eight from nine to lie seventh (of eight) in the group, who showed more intent throughout the game.
Following an early exchange of penalties by Jean-Luc du Plessis and Tusi Pisi, Akihito Yamada crossed for the first try in the 12th minute.
The wing is known for his footwork and speed, but this five-pointer was more to do with his quick mind than fast feet as he dived over from a ruck a meter out following good work by Riaan Viljoen and Andrew Durutalo.
The Stormers tried to muscle their way back into the game as they kept the ball alive for more than 20 phases.
But the Sunwolves defensive line held firm and Pisi extended the lead with penalties in the 26th and 31st minutes to make it 14-3 at the break.
Yamada almost got a carbon copy of his earlier try five minutes into the second half. Referee Paul Williams initially awarded the try but saw the wing had made a number of attempts to ground the ball when it was replayed on the big screen and, after conferring with the Television Match Official, disallowed the score.
The Sunwolves weren’t perturbed though and Pisi banged over a penalty in the 49th minute before the side was once again forced to defend heroically.
But there is only so much pressure a team can take before cracks appear in the defense and Pieter-Steph du Toit finally crossed the chalk in the 59th minute as the South African pack was finally rewarded for its efforts.
Du Plessis added the extras from the touchline to make it 17-10, a kick that was to ultimately prove crucial.
With time just about up on the clock, it looked as if the Sunwolves were going to come away with a famous win.
But Koch powered over and Thomson held his nerve to bang over the extras and ensure the sides shared the points.