Hayden Parker kicked a late drop goal to help the Sunwolves claim a historic 26-23 win over the Stormers in Hong Kong on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The finish in Hong Kong resembled the climax of the 2015 World Cup group match between Japan and South Africa in Brighton. The scores were level after full time, and yet the Japanese side opted to play on and push for the win.
When the opportunity to strike the winning blow arrived, the Sunwolves took it, with Parker slotting a drop goal. The result marks the Sunwolves’ first Super Rugby win over the Stormers, and extends the Cape side’s long losing streak away from home in 2018.
The Sunwolves played out of their skins at the breakdowns and collisions. They struggled at the scrums, but still managed to enjoy much of the territory.
Dillyn Leyds was one of the standouts for the visitors, scoring two tries in the first half and making a potentially game-saving tackle at the death. In the end, however, the Stormers weren’t accurate or smart enough to close the game out.
The Sunwolves lifted their game in the second stanza. After trailing by 12-0 in the early stages of the contest, they hit back to lead 20-17 as the game approached the business end.
SP Marais stepped up to nail two long-range penalties for the visitors. At that stage, it seemed as if the Stormers may escape with a draw.
Indeed, the Cape side had a chance to win the game after the final hooter. They attempted to control the ball as they moved deeper and deeper into Sunwolves territory.
The hosts managed to force a turnover, though, and counter-attacked. The Stormers defence panicked and allowed the Sunwolves to move into their half of the field.
After 84 minutes, Parker hit the drop goal that brought the small but delighted crowd to its feet. The New Zealander finished the game with a personal tally of 21 points, but many will remember the final kick that propelled the Sunwolves into the history books and ensured that Robbie Fleck’s Stormers were remembered for all the wrong reasons.
Sunwolves – Tries: Hayden Parker, Grant Hattingh. Conversions: Parker (2). Penalties: Parker (3). Drop goal: Parker.
Stormers – Tries: Dillyn Leyds (2), JJ Engelbrecht. Conversion: Jean-Luc du Plessis. Penalty: SP Marais (2).
Sunwolves – 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Kenki Fukuoka, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Michael Little, 11 Akihito Yamada, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Edward Quirk (c), 6 Michael Leitch, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Shintaro Ishihara.
Subs: 16 Jaba Bregvadze 17 Craig Millar, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Uwe Helu, 20 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 21 Yutaka Nagare, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Jason Emery.
Stormers – 15 SP Marais, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Cobus Wiese, 6 Kobus van Dyk, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Chris van Zyl (c), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Subs: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Carlu Sadie, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Raymond Rhule.
Photo: Victor Fraile/Getty Images