Matt Faddes scored a brace as the Highlanders hammered the Sunwolves 40-15 in Invercargill on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
The Highlanders enjoyed a bye in round eight and were a bit rusty at the start of this contest, but the hosts hit their stride as the game wore on, and despite a disjointed first-half effort they overpowered the Sunwolves with a dominant showing in the second 40 minutes.
The Sunwolves suffered a heavy defeat against the Crusaders last week, but were much improved against the Highlanders, dominating possession and territory. Unfortunately for them, poor execution in the final third of the field prevented them from making it count on the scoreboard.
Nonetheless, the Sunwolves managed to frustrate the Highlanders for the best part of the first half. After centre Malakai Fekitoa had opened the scoring and Marty Banks converted in the fourth minute, it looked as if they would steamroll the Japanese side. But the visitors pulled three points back with a penalty and then held the Highlanders to that four-point lead until the 35th minute.
However, the hosts struck a double blow at the stroke of half-time to go into the sheds with a flattering scoreline.
The Highlanders started to play high-risk rugby after the break and it paid off as the Sunwolves started to miss more and more tackles. Faddes, who had been influential throughout the game, completed a quick brace, including an intercept effort to put his side 35-3 up, and then Ben Smith added another.
But despite the scoreline, the Sunwolves deserve applause for the manner in which they finished the game. Staring down the barrel, the visitors put up a brave fight in the final quarter. They kept the Highlanders scoreless, while South African Willie Britz and Rohboni Vosayaco scored the final two tries of the contest to get the Sunwolves into double figures.
Highlanders – Tries: Malakai Fekitoa, Liam Squire, Aaron Smith, Matt Faddes (2), Ben Smith. Conversions: Marty Banks (5).
Sunwolves – Tries: Willie Britz, Rahboni Vosayaco. Conversion: Yu Tamura. Penalty: Tamura.
Highlanders – 15 Ben Smith (c), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Matt Faddes, 12 Malakai Fekitoa, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Subs: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate 17, Aki Seiuli 18, Siosuia Halanukonuka 19, Tom Franklin 20, Gareth Evans 21, Josh Renton 22, Teihorangi Walden 23, Sio Tomkinson.
Sunwolves – 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Takaaki Nakazuru, 13 William Tupou, 12 Timothy Lafaele, 11 Yasutaka Sasakura, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Willem Britz, 7 Yuhimaru Mimura, 6 Edward Quirk (c), 5 Uwe Helu, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Yasuo Yamaji, 2 Yusuke Niwai, 1 Keita Inagaki.
Subs: 16 Takeshi Kizu, 17 Koki Yamamoto, 18 Heiichiro Ito, 19 Shinya Makabe, 20 Rahboni Warren Vosayaco, 21 Yuki Yatomi, 22 Hayden Cripps, 23 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.
Photo: Dianne Manson/Getty Images