Marcel Brache scored a hat-trick to guide the Force to a 40-22 win over the Sunwolves in Tokyo on Saturday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
While the result is not enough to lift them off the foot of the Australasian group standings, the Force have finally ended their winning drought overseas dating back to 2014 and their seven-game losing streak this year. Brache's performance will be especially pleasing as the winger hadn’t scored in his last 33 Super Rugby matches.
The game itself was loose and unstructured, with the Sunwolves taking an early 5-0 lead. But the Force then scored 33 unanswered points to take firm control.
The opening five minutes belonged to the hosts, who briefly led courtesy of a well-worked try from set-piece play. Fullback Riaan Viljoen came up in the line and played as second receiver off the back of a Sunwolves scrum. The South African breached the Force defence and from there the ball went wide quickly with Yamada finishing in the left-hand corner with his first touch since returning from injury.
From the restart, the Sunwolves decided to try and run the ball out of their own 22, and Brache came in off wing and intercepted a long, skip pass to score an opportunistic try.
His second effort came seven minutes later. The Sunwolves fell off a couple of tackles and the ball was sent wide to Brache's wing again, with the South African stepping off his right foot to beat compatriot Viljoen for another converted effort.
That score changed the complexion of the game. The Force's forwards started to disrupt the Sunwolves’ lineout ball and they scrummed better. And when loosehead prop Francois van Wyk split the hosts’ defence with a surging midfield run any back would be proud of, Brache was on hand to complete his hat-trick.
Shortly before the break, the Sunwolves’ defence was exposed again and another South African, flank Brynard Stander, crossed the line as the Force took a 26-5 lead into the break.
The second half was equally entertaining, with the Sunwolves outscoring the visitors two tries to three, but the wayward goal-kicking of Pisi and his replacement Yu Tamara didn’t help their cause.
After the Force had extended their lead through Ben McCalman’s converted score, the Sunwolwes regained the ascendancy in the scrums. This led to a double strike by Pisi and outside centre Derek Carpenter.
However, just as they looked to narrow the gap even further, Angus Cottrell intercepted a loose pass and sprinted away to dash the hosts’ hopes of a comeback. Yamada did cross for a late try to deny the Force a bonus-point win, but it was scant consolation for his team.
Sunwolves – Try: Akihito Yamada (2), Tusi Pisi, Derek Carpenter. Conversion: Yu Tamara.
Force – Tries: Marcel Brache (3), Brynard Stander, Ben McCalman, Angus Cottrell. Conversions: Ian Prior (4), Peter Grant.
Sunwolves – 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Akihito Yamada, 13 Derek Carpenter, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 John Stewart, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Kaito Shigeno, 8 Ed Quirk, 7 Andrew Durutalo, 6 Liaki Moli, 5 Faatiga Lemalu, 4 Hitoshi Ono, 3 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 2, Shota Horie (c), 1 Masataka Mikami.
Subs: 16 Takeshi Kizu, 17 Ziun Gu, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Yoshiya Hosoda, 20 Taiyo Ando, 21 Atsushi Hiwasa, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Mifiposeti Paea.
Force – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Junior Rasolea, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Luke Morohan, 10 Ian Prior, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Byrnard Stander, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Guy Millar, 2 Harry Scoble, 1 Francois van Wyk.
Subs: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Steve Mafi, 20 Angus Cottrell, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Peter Grant, 23 Semisi Masirewa.
Photo: Koji Watanabe/Getty Images