An earthquake jolted the stands at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground on Saturday, but it was the Melbourne Rebels who did the moving and shaking on the field in a 52-7 win over the Sunwolves, who dropped to 2-11 on the season.
The visitors showed no trouble adjusting from the Southern Hemisphere winter to Tokyo’s hot and humid conditions, eventually running in eight tries to one after taking a 19-0 lead into halftime.
The Rebels came into the match second in the Australian Conference and in contention for the automatic finals berth awarded to the top team in the regional grouping.
Newly added Japan No. 8 and former Rebel Amanaki Lelei Mafi gave the Sunwolves forward momentum with his powerful ball-carrying, but the home side repeatedly wasted chances by giving away possession too easily.
The visitors broke through in the 13th minute after scrumhalf Will Genia spread the ball quickly from a ruck for flanker Angus Cottrell to cross under the posts.
They crossed again shortly afterward when lock Matt Philip broke the line before setting up winger Marika Koroibete inside the left touch line.
Tries to Jack Maddocks and Dane Haylett-Petty stretched the Rebels’ lead to 31-0 by the 58-minute mark.
Sunwolves fullback Jason Emery finally gave the home crowd something to cheer in the 63rd minute when he crossed after charging down Reece Hodge’s clearing kick and gathered the ball to score near the uprights.
Sunwolves acting head coach Scott Hansen, taking charge for the final four games with Tony Brown back on national team duty, said the Tokyo-based side paid for poor decision making.
“It’s a fair summation to say at the moment that we’re not always making the right decision with carrying the ball in the offloads,” Hansen said.