1. Sunwolves improved scrum
Sunwolves simply had to change something in the pack after they were overpowered in the scrum in the opening weekend. And change they did, with Hiroshi Yamashita coming in at tighthead prop. Not only did they win all of their scrums, including two within the opening four minutes that pumped up the Tokyo crowd, they also won a scrum against the head inside their own 22.
The line-out still needs work though. Replacement Atsushi Skate’s throw on the hour mark ultimately led to Waratahs’ final and decisive try.
2. Almost 100% Parker
Hayden Parker maintained his 100% kicking record from the tee this season with 15 points from the boot against Waratahs. He kept the scoreboard ticking over to keep Sunwolves in the game.
It could have been even better for Parker had he slotted a drop-goal attempt in the 79th minute. With just 80 seconds left on the clock, Parker found himself in the pocket 20 metres in front of the posts but sliced his attempt off his left boot agonisingly wide of the left-hand post.
3. Van den Heever flying
Yamaha utility back Gerhard van den Heever didn’t enjoy the best of luck with Sunwolves last campaign as he was limited to just 77 minutes all season due to injury.
Usually deployed at full-back, Scott Hansen opted to start the South African on the wing against Waratahs. And that decision reaped dividends, with Van Den Heever the only player to make more than 100 metres in the match (140m), making also a team-high ten carries and six defenders beaten. His second try of the match from the set piece was reminiscent of the Brave Blossoms against South Africa, with Van Den Heever receiving the inside ball from the centre to dart through the opposition defence.
4. Wolves unable to maul Folau
Israel Folau again wreaked havoc against the Sunwolves with his two tries. He has a fond spot for facing the Japanese franchise after also notching a double of tries in his previous encounter against them.
It is no secret that Folau can blow hot or cold for club and country, but he was certainly firing on all cylinders on Saturday, much to the dismay of those in the Sunwolves camp. The 29-year-old beat more defenders (7) and made more offloads (5) than any other player on the field, as he made the most metres among all Waratahs
5. Home, sweet home
Sunwolves have proved time and time again that they perform with the enthusiastic home support of Tokyo behind them. Following last weekend’s dismal showing against Sharks that saw Singapore National Stadium at less than 10% capacity, they needed a full house to cheer them on to mark the start of Rugby World Cup year in Japan.
That support has seen a recent spike in form at Chichibunomiya (Tokyo) for the Sunwolves. Before the Waratahs match, they had won two on the bounce in the Japanese capital and limited their opponents to 25 points or fewer in two of their last four games. Playing two extra matches in Tokyo this season should certainly help increase crowds should the team remain competitive away from home.