1. Ill-discipline or ill-officiating?
As Sunwolves head coach Tony Brown pointed out in his post-match press conference, four of the Lions’ six tries ultimately resulted from infringements from the home side. The South Africans made use of their physical advantage as they exploited their dominance at the set-piece to overpower the Sunwolves.
Sunwolves were penalized 12 times against Lions by referee Damon Murphy, with the guests conceding just six penalties. The Japan franchise has now conceded at least double the number of penalties than their opponents in each of their last three matches. There comes a time when you question whether it’s a simply a case of ill-discipline or if they are being shafted by the incompetency of officiating in the competition.
2. Mafi back with a bang
Amanaki Mafi made another appearance off the bench for the Sunwolves in Singapore, following on from his debut against the Reds last weekend. While the former Rebels no.8 is not yet at full match fitness after joining up with the squad a couple of weeks ago, there are signs that Mafi is rekindling the form that saw him as the first name on the teamsheet in Melbourne.
Mafi showed terrific strength and power to force his way through three defenders from the base of the scrum that paved the way for former NTT Comm teammate Warren Rahboni-Vosayaco’s first try. The metres that Mafi can make after the point of contact are invaluable for the Sunwolves, even more so that he made more metres (46m) than both Sunwolves’ starting flankers combined (21m). The 29-year-old was Sunwolves’ main outlet in the second half, demonstrated nonetheless by his nine carries in his 33 minutes on pitch – more than any other Sunwolves forward in the match.
3. Mission Singapore a failure
There were once again sparse crowds in Singapore, highlighted by the plethora of empty red and white seats captured by the television cameras. The home crowd did generate a decent amount of noise, but with the stadium at under 10% capacity, neither fans nor players can enjoy playing in an empty bowl.
Given the little interest in the Sunwolves and Singapore, which can in part be blamed on the little marketing effort by Sunwolves in the region, there can be surely be no logical reason why matches should be held at Singapore National Stadium in Sunwolves’ final Super Rugby season in 2020.
4. Sunwolves need to be ruthlesss
Sunwolves were superior to the Lions in terms of metres gained, carries, clean breaks and significantly offloads (18-4), which shows that they are not being completely outperformed in Super Rugby this season compared to previous campaigns.
Despite bossing the key attacking statistics, they were unable to come out with the elusive victory in Singapore that they craved. Instead, Lions took full advantage of almost every opportunity they had inside the opposition 22, flicking the switch and mobilizing their forward pack to put the game to bed. If Sunwolves really want to covert these improved performances into results, then they need to be ruthless inside the opposition 22 and make their pressure pay.