Sunwolves history no comfort for Chiefs
It’s taken 25 games on the road in four years of Investec Super Rugby but the Sunwolves finally secured their first away win when completing a 30-15 victory over the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday.
They deserved their win. They played their attacking game and achieved an outstanding first-half dominance with captain and second five-eighths Michael Little, the son of former All Black Walter Little, leading with an inspirational performance which applied pressure on a Chiefs team that could do little right.
Backing Little was first five-eighths Hayden Parker, who landed 15 points with his boot to further frustrate the home side.
It was the third loss of the season for the Chiefs who were looking to recover from their humiliating loss to the Brumbies last week. But from early on the signs were not good.
The Sunwolves loose forwards were over everything in the loose while lock Uew Helu had a powerful game, losing nothing in comparison to the home colossus Brodie Retallick. Wing Gerhard van den Heever was also a handful whenever he got his hands on the ball.
The Sunwolves lost centre Shane Gates after only five minutes as he was stretchered from the ground with a leg injury. He had been involved in the build-up to the first try which came 1min 43sec into the game, after a fine break through the middle of a ruck by Helu. He took the ball into the goalmouth and quick movement of the ball provided flanker Shuhei Matsuhashi, a late replacement for Ed Quirk, with the room to score the try.
Helu had his reward with a 32nd minute try after van den Heever broke on his right flank beating tackle attempts by marker Etene Nanai-Seturo and fullback Shaun Stevenson and then carrying play for the support to arrive which allowed Helu to pick up the ball and charge over beside the posts.
It was another blow for the Chiefs who had been attempting to overcome the territorial and possession advantage the Sunwolves enjoyed. The tackles the Chiefs had to make were nearly three times as many as the visitors.
Typical of the issues the Chiefs had was their breakout in the last act of the first half when Nanai-Seturo ran onto a well-placed crosskick by second five-eighths Orbyn Leger but in the final stages the ball was lost, as it had been several times earlier in the half and the Sunwolves were able to go to the break with a 23-3 lead.
The Chiefs may have had to withdraw lock Brodie Retallick moments into the second half, but the side lifted their act, none more than centre Alex Nankiville, who started popping up in crucial places and taking ball to the line. But it was ability on the chase when first five-eighths Damian McKenzie lobbed a chip kick into the goalmouth where Nankiville raced in to score.
However, they were unable to back that play up and instead it was the Sunwolves who stormed back. Initially, they went close after Stevenson failed to take a kick ahead, having the ball bounce off his shoulder and toed ahead by van den Heever who knocked the ball on when trying to pick it up short of the goalline.
The Chiefs worked to clear the ball off the line but after Nanai-Seturo sent a kick downfield, the ever-present Sunwolves fullback Jason Emery, formerly of Manawatu, worked the ball back and when it emerged from a maul, some great work by No.8 Raboni Warren Vosayaco saw an infield pass go van den Heever, who broke the defence and scored to take the Sunwolves out to 30-10.
Running into some discipline issues as the Chiefs mounted attacks, the Sunwolves had to defend a scrum close to the line. When it screwed, No.8 Teleni Seu grabbed the ball and fed Weber on the blindside and he held the ball up in the tackle to feed Nanai-Seturo and his pace gave him the power to break through and score.
Chiefs 15 (Alex Nankiville, Etene Nanai-Seturo tries Damian McKenzie con, pen)
Sunwolves 30 (Shuhei Matsuhashi, Uwe Helu, Gerhard van den Heever tries; Hayden Parker 3 con, 3 pen)