Crusaders go top with stunning comeback, Sunwolves bag historic win

The Sunwolves mauled the Reds 63-28 Saturday on their home turf
AFP

Tokyo (AFP) – The Canterbury Crusaders regained the Super Rugby lead with a powerful rally to go from four tries down to beat the NSW Waratahs 31-29 while the Sunwolves stunned the Queensland Reds to record their first win on Saturday.

The Crusaders conceded 29 points inside the first half hour in the clash between the top New Zealand and Australian sides before they worked out how to cut Israel Folau out of the game and from there they produced five tries to snatch a narrow victory.

The bottom-of-the-table Sunwolves also trailed early against the Reds before finding their rhythm with “Tongan Godzilla” Hosea Saumaki scoring a hat-trick in a historic 63-28 victory.

Folau was exceptional for the Waratahs in the opening stages of their match, whether beating the Crusaders in the air or creating space, and scored two of their first four tries.

But once the defending champions learned how to starve Folau of possession they came back with three tries in the closing eight minutes of the first half.

They added two more in the second spell while the Waratahs were punished for ill-discipline and spent nearly 20 minutes down a man with Nick Phipps and Taqele Naiyaravoro serving time in the sin bin.

Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock said it was obvious their opening game plan did not work and they were not panicked by the Waratahs’ strong start.

“We gave them the ball back early and they really punished us because of it. Once we chopped that it started to turn in our favour,” Whitelock said. 

“But we were nice and calm out there. We stuck to what we knew would work and came over the top at the end.”

Waratahs captain Michael Hooper said his side had only themselves to  blame.

“Probably our discipline hurt us. Two yellow cards. It’s hard to beat these guys with 14 men,” he said.  

The Crusaders, who have not lost at home to the Waratahs since 2004, extended New Zealand’s winning streak over Australian sides to 39 matches. 

While they celebrated their ongoing dominance and registered their ninth win from 11 matches, Japan’s Sunwolves were celebrating their first win of the season.

Saumaki scored a hat-trick of tries while flyhalf Hayden Parker had a perfect day off the tee with 12 from 12 for 36 points in Tokyo as they thrashed the Reds by a 35-point margin.

“You have to take the good with the bad, and we have had our fair share of bad,” admitted Sunwolves coach Jamie Joseph after the Tokyo-based team racked up their highest-ever points total and first victory over Australian opposition.

“For me, as the coach of this team, this result wasn’t a surprise.”

After losing the first nine matches of their third season, there was little hint of what was to follow when the Sunwolves trailed 14-9 after 20 minutes. 

But giant lock Grant Hattingh restored parity before Parker skipped over for his try, book-ended by two more penalties, to send the Sunwolves into the break leading 29-14.

Winger Saumaki went on the rampage in the second half, crashing over three times to set up the historic victory that had loyal Sunwolves fans weeping with joy.

.