Cheetahs fight back to edge Sunwolves

The Cheetahs recovered from a half-time deficit to run out 32-31 winners against Sunwolves in Singapore on Saturday.

Both sides gave the ball plenty of air throughout although, as the scoreline suggests, the game will never be used in defensive coaching manuals.

The Sunwolves will be kicking themselves as they wasted a golden opportunity to win their first ever match in the competition after holding a 31-13 lead early on in the second half.

The two sides crossed for four tries apiece with Akihito Yamada leading the way for the Sunwolves with a first half hat-trick.

The Sunwolves started brightly and were playing with real rhythm and confidence while their opponents seemed rattled during the opening period.

Yamada scored his first try as early as the third minute after finding himselff in space down the right hand touchline. He still had work to do but beat two defenders with ease before diving over.

Tusi Pisi added the extras before Niel Marais slotted two penalties to reduced the deficit to a point. Yamada soon crossed for his second five-pointer after brilliant work from his team-mates in the build-up.

Pisi launched a crossfield kick which Riaan Viljoen gathered before passing to Harumichi Tatekawa who did well to offload to Yamada who got over in the right-hand corner for his second try.

The Cheetahs struck back in the 25th minute when, after Sergeal Petersen booted the ball ahead, Marais dived on it behind the Sunwolves' tryline for his team's first try.

He dusted himself off and added the extras but 10 minutes later, Pisi and Yu Tamura combined brilliantly to send Yamada in for his third five-pointer, and five minutes later Sunwolves skipper Shota Horie barged over from close quarters for their fourth try.

Pisi converted which meant the Sunwolves were leading 28-13 at the break and three minutes after the restart the pivot slotted a penalty which meant the home side were cruising.

But the Cheetahs had other ideas and five two minutes later Uzair Cassiem burst through a gaping hole in the Sunwolves defence to score under the posts.

That score seemed to rejuvenate the men from Bloemfontein and they continued to dominate as the half progressed. The Sunwolves, meanwhile, looked a totally different side from the first hald and they soon conceded another try – Marais dotting down after poor defending from the hosts.

With the score now at 21-27 to the Sunwolves, the Cheetahs continued to attack and were soon camped close to their opponents' tryline. The Sunwolves suffered a blow when Ed Quirk was sin-binned for persistent infringements on defence.

The Cheetahs opted to kick for touch from the resulting penalty and from the ensuing lin-out Boom Prinsloo scored what proved to be the matchwinning try off the back of a rolling maul deep inside the Sunwolves' 22.

The scorers:

For Sunwolves:
Yamada 3, Horie
Cons: Pisi 4
Pen: Pisi
Yellow card: Quirk

For Cheetahs:
Marais 2, Cassiem, Prinsloo
Cons: Pisi 3
Pens: Marais 2

Sunwolves: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Akihito Yamada, 13 Harumichi Tatekawa, 12 Yu Tamura, 11 Yasutaka Sasakura, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Atsushi Hiwasa, 8 Edward Quirk, 7 Andrew Durutalo, 6 Liaki Moli, 5 Hitoshi Ono, 4 Timothy Vond, 3 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 2 Shota Horie (c), 1 Keith Inagaki
Replacements: 16 Takeshi Kizu, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Takuma Asahara,19 Shinya Makabe, 20 Yoshiya Hosoda, 21 Kaito Shigeno, 22 Derek Carpenter, 23 Mifiposeti Paea

Cheetahs: 15 Sias Ebersohn, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter, 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Ox Nche
Replacements: 16 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Hilton Lobberts, 21 Boom Prinsloo, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Fred Zeilinga

Referee: Quinton Immelman
Assistant Referees: Shuhei Kubo, Aki Aso
TMO: Takashi Hareda

By David Skippers