Super Rugby results: Japan’s ‘embarrassing’ Sunwolves suffer 92-17 mauling from Central Cheetahs

The struggling Sunwolves suffered an historic defeat in Super Rugby on Saturday at the hands of the Central Cheetahs, who battered them 92-17.

Edward Quirk of the Sunwolves tackled by Tian Meyer, left, and Shaun Venter of the Cheetahs during their Super Rugby match on Saturday. Gerhard Steenkamp / EPA
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Japan’s Sunwolves must “start from scratch” after their humiliating 92-17 Super Rugby defeat to the Central Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday, captain Shota Horie said.

The Tokyo-based expansion side were expected to struggle in their debut season but the 14-try rout, labelled “embarrassing” by South African pundits, was among the heaviest defeats recorded in the competition’s 20-year history.

Having already played two “home” matches in Singapore, the Sunwolves were on the third and final stop of their first South Africa tour, a gruelling itinerary for even the most seasoned Super Rugby teams.

“It was a difficult result and we need to rebuild and work hard,” Horie told Japanese media.

“We are a little bit fatigued but we can’t use that as an excuse. It’s going to come down to physical conditioning from here on. We’ll have to start from scratch.”

The Japanese outfit play three of their eight “home” games in Singapore, a concession made before beating out the city state’s Super Rugby bid.

Winless from seven matches, the trouncing came just a week after head coach Mark Hammett declared his side had “exceeded expectations”.

The defeat ranks as one of the heaviest in Super Rugby history, though the Queensland Reds’ 92-3 loss to the Blue Bulls in 2007 still stands as the competition’s most lopsided result.

Former South Africa coach Nick Mallett, a television pundit for local broadcaster SuperSport, decried the Sunwolves’ performance as bad for the competition.

“It was embarrassing,” he said. “Imagine what the scoreline could have been if the Sunwolves were playing one of the top New Zealand teams.

“The Sunwolves lost heart and belief and gave up long before the final whistle. This match was not a proper reflection of Super Rugby.”

Tournament organisers confirmed in 2014 that Japan would enter a team in the 2016 Super Rugby season, one of three new outfits in an expanded 18-team competition.

However, the Asian nation, which will host the next World Cup in 2019, dragged its feet in putting the side together.

Many of Japan’s top rugby talents, who impressed at last year’s World Cup in England, turned their back on the home side to ply their trade with other Super Rugby teams.

New Zealander Hammett was confirmed as coach only in December, and had just three weeks to prepare his squad before the opening round of the season.

Japanese media were quick to link the Sunwolves’ Bloemfontein capitulation with the 145-17 massacre inflicted by the All Blacks on the national team in the same city during the 1995 World Cup.

“Although this was not the national team and the scoreline was not quite as bad, it will have some wondering if last year’s performances at the World Cup were nothing more than a flash in the pan,” Kyodo news agency said in a sombre match report.

Auckland Blues 23 Sharks 18

A moment of brilliance from teenage winger Rieko Ioane secured the Blues a tense win in a scrappy clash at Eden Park, while snapping a 10-match losing streak against the Durban side.

The 19-year-old Ioane, a member of New Zealand’s national sevens squad, took the ball from the halfway-line in the 65th minute and burst through the Sharks defence before sprinting away to touch down in the right corner.

Flyhalf Ihaia West’s conversion gave the Blues a two-point lead and the home side held on for their third win of the season, keeping their slender play-offs hopes alive.

Melbourne Rebels 13 Wellington Hurricanes 38

Beauden Barrett scored two tries in an 18-point masterclass as the Hurricanes humbled the Rebels 38-13 in a Super Rugby match on Friday.

The Hurricanes ran in six tries to two to post their fifth win of the season and shore up fourth place in the Australasian conference to keep their play-offs hopes alive.

Canterbury Crusaders 32 Jaguares 15

Fullback Israel Dagg scored two tries and set up another on his return from injury as the Crusaders stormed to a dominant bonus-point 32-15 win over Argentina’s Jaguares in Christchurch.

Andy Ellis, Richie Mo’unga and Kieran Read scored the other tries for the home side, with number eight Facundo Isa and Gonzalez Iglesias touching down for the visitors.

New South Wales Waratahs 20 ACT Brumbies 26

Joe Tomane scored two tries in the opening quarter hour and added another just after the break to lead the Brumbies over the Waratahs in a back-and-forth affair in Sydney.

The visitors stormed out to a 12-0 lead in the opening 15 minutes before the Waratahs punched back, Reece Robinson and Israel Folau touching down and Bernard Foley kicking a penalty and converting twice to turn the tables 17-12.

Stephen Moore’s try before the half put the Brumbies back ahead, however, with the Canberra-based side holding on for the win in a more subdued second period.

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