A brace of tries from Derek Carpenter was not enough for the Sunwolves as they fell to a 35-25 defeat to Reds in their first ever Super Rugby match in Oceania, in a game shaped by the brute nature of the home team’s forwards.
The visitors opted not to contest in the line-outs, as they did last week in Singapore against Stormers, and focused on dealing with the oncoming driving maul resulting from the throw. It came as no surprise then, that the first try of the game arose from a Reds line-out, rewarding their early dominance from the set-piece, with Curtis Browning diving over the line. Goromaru added the conversion to his early penalty and Reds were 10-0 to the good.
Sunwolves’ heads did not drop though and they responded to Reds’ opening try seven minutes later with one of their own. Quick hands from the backline and hooker Takeshi Kizu, in the starting XV for the second week running in place of Shota Horie, found Derek Carpenter on the left wing, and he held off the lesser-publicised Brisbane-based Japan international, Hendrik Tui, to touch down in the corner.
The line-out held the key to breaking the down the Sunwolves’ defence for the Reds, although it was quick-thinking, not sheer force, that yielded their second try when a short throw saw them come within a metre of the guests’ try-line. Prop James Slipper slipped far too easily through the Sunwolves back-row pairing of Quirk and Moli to give Reds a 17-13 lead at the interval.
Another Reds line-out produced another try as no.8 Browning was driven over the line by his fellow forwards after Sunwolves had shamelessly collapsed the driving maul from the line-out. If Sunwolves can take anything from their first game in Australia, it can be that they won over the home faithful and neutrals inside Suncorp Stadium with their exciting and energetic brand of rugby. Akihito Yamada, Super Rugby’s top try scorer but presented with few chances this afternoon, sprinted down the left touchline before offloading to Pisi, who cleverly fed Carpenter, and the New Zealander ran in his second try of the game.
Moli’s try, his second for the Sunwolves with both coming away from Tokyo and Singapore, would be ultimately overshadowed by the injury to the Goromaru. Japan’s World Cup star failed to replicate his tackling heroics which earned him tackle of the tournament for a try-saving tackle against Scotland, although in an almost identical position on the pitch, Goromaru went shoulder first into the mammoth-like structure of back-row Moli and predictably came off second best. A lesson on tackling perhaps for young fans in the crowd, with Goromaru making no use of his arms in the tackle, and will now miss the remainder of the Super Rugby season, together with Japan’s June tests against Canada and Scotland.
Pisi's failed conversion meant honours were even at 25-25 going into the final 15 minutes. It was the Reds’ forwards who would have the final say of the match though, but in uncharacteristic circumstances as the hosts broke from within their 22 following a knock-on from replacement scrum half Yuki Yatomi. They caught the Sunwolves off guard down the blind side and found prop Caderyn Neville, who galloped 40 metres to produce the final score of the game and deny Sunwolves their first away victory in Super Rugby.