What an entertaining game the loyal Sunwolves home crowd were treated to. There was a total of 62 points scored in an enterprising match in Tokyo. The Force took the honours in a 40-22 win, but many people must be wondering where has this Force team been all season?
The Force played with width and looked to keep the ball in hand. However, the Sunwolves continued to display their attacking flair and this was evident when Yamada crossed for the first try. It was a perfect start for the Sunwolves, who from the very beginning looked to go wide and with some slick skills saw them cross for the first try of the match.
Force fans probably felt déjà vu from previous weeks, however Brache opportunistically intercepted a pass, and with no defence in front of him went over the chalk to level the scores. After the Brache try the Force played with some serious swagger. They kept ball in hand and the backline looked sharp.
With Godwin back at inside centre it gave the backline a little more direction and potency; something it had been lacking all season. Haylett-Petty was strong at the back and looked to counter attack at any opportunity. Ergo, it was from a great counter by Haylett-Petty that set up the Force’s second try.
When the Force got into the Sunwolves’ 22 they showed patience and control. A strong carry up the middle by prop Van Wyk really got the Force on the front foot. Recycled, the ball went wide and Godwin gave a neat inside pass to Brache who crossed over for his second try of the match.
Midway through the first half and it was clear that the Force were dictating the terms of the match. They controlled the speed with great offloading in attack and getting quick ball from the ruck allowed them to easily get on the front foot.
The Sunwolves were guilty of holding back in defence and didn’t get off the line quick enough to stop the Force’s big ball runners. This also allowed the Force’s backline time and space to play with freedom – a foreign experience for them.
The men in blue’s early dominance didn’t deter the Sunwolves from attacking ball-in-hand. A quick break down Yamada’s right wing linked up with Viljeon who nearly did everything right, but knocked the ball on over the line in the 33rd minute.
It was a reflection of the Sunwolves’ fortunes in the match: they were growing in confidence and getting some momentum the more they attacked, but it would come to nought on many occassions on account of knock-ons.
The Force by comparison were much more clinical with scoring opportunities in the first half: goal kicking-wise they had the ball on a string, and they notched up further scores through Stander and Brache.
The Second Half
The Sunwolves needed to fix their defence if they were to have chance of getting back into the game and their efforts to do so left much to be desired when McCalman scored for the Force in the 52nd minute. Midway through the second half the Force reverted to territory-based kicking tactics.
With some average kicking by the Force, the Sunwolves managed to snatch back some momentum. The Sunwolves rumbled to the Force’s goal line and began to apply great pressure, which told with Pisi crossing the line in the 58th minute for the Sunwolves’ second.
Momentum swung back in favor of the Sunwolves, with some good hands and off-loading in the tackle creating problems for the Force defence. The Sunwolves managed to rumble to the opposition 22 on several occasions but again fell foul to unforced errors. It was not until the Carpenter try in the 69th minute that the Sunwolves converted their dominance in the latter part of the second half into points.
It was all the Sunwolves in the second half, dominating the possession and territory. However the wind went out of their sails somewhat when Cottrell intercepted a desperate pass from the Sunwolves and scored a try under the posts in the 74th minute.
With true Japanese grit and determination the Sunwolves played for the full 80. Yamada scored a consolation try in the 79th minute, denying the Force a bonus point.
Notwithstanding the result, the Sunwolves continued to produce entertaining rugby. And for the loyal Sea of Blue supporters; this could mark a real turning point for their team this season.
Force 40 (Brache 3, Stander, McCalman, Cottrell tries; Prior 4, Grant cons) def Sunwolves 22 (Yamada 2, Pisi, Carpenter tries, Tamara con)
Yellow Cards: 0
Red Cards 0