March 03, 2019

Gallagher Chiefs stunned by Sunwolves

The Sunwolves have come to Hamilton and stunned the Gallagher Chiefs with a dominant 30-15 victory at FMG Stadium Waikato.

The visiting Japanese franchise deservedly earnt their first ever win away from home, holding on late in the match after jumping out to a 20-point lead at halftime, as the Chiefs slumped to their third straight defeat to open their 2019 campaign.

Capitalising on a mistake from the opening kick-off by Damian McKenzie, the Sunwolves got off to a flying start as some positive attacking running from the resulting scrum on halfway ended in a try to flanker Shuhei Matsuhashi.

First five Hayden Parker nailed the sideline conversion for a 7-0 lead inside the opening three minutes.

After a lengthy injury delay which saw Sunwolves centre Shane Gates leave the field, Parker added a penalty to extend the visitors' lead to 10 points.

Throughout the opening quarter of the match it was simple unforced errors that let the Chiefs down as the Sunwolves continued their impressive start, looking the more likely to add further points.

At the 20-minute mark came the Chiefs best moment of the match to date, as a strong run from centre Alex Nankivell saw wing Sean Wainui go close to scoring.

That attack seemed to spark the home side into life and they backed it up by working downfield and winning a penalty, which Damian McKenzie converted for their first points of the night.

However, it wasn't long before Parker restored the 10-point lead with his second penalty, with the Sunwolves continuing to enjoy the better of possession and territory thanks to a disjointed first half performance from the Chiefs.

Another superb, surging attack from the Sunwolves once again proved too much for the Chiefs to deal with as wing Gerhard van den Heever made a good burst down the right-hand sideline, before a charging run from lock Uwe Helu gave them their second try.

Parker's third penalty then pushed the lead out to 20 points.

There were chances at both ends of the field late in the half in what was an entertaining first 40 minutes, but no more points were added as the Sunwolves went into the break with a surprise, but very much deserved, 20-point lead.

Desperately needing some points early in the second half to get themselves back into the match, a brilliantly waited chip over the top from McKenzie was latched onto by Alex Nankivell who slid over the line under the points.

McKenzie's conversion brought the deficit back to 13 points which suddenly looked a lot more manageable with over half an hour remaining.

More mistakes from both teams continued to be the story of the match until, out of nowhere, Gerhard van den Heever pounced on a loose ball, spun out of a couple of tackles, and raced away to score a well-deserved try.

The accurate boot of Parker extended the lead back out to 20 points with just over a quarter of the match to play.

A sharp response from the Chiefs then saw a well worked blindside move involving halfback Brad Weber and wing Etene Nanai-Seturo, with the latter finishing off nicely near the left-hand sideline.

Backing up from their second try, the Chiefs continued to dominate field position but some gutsy Sunwolves defence was able to deny them on several occasions.

After surviving several waves of Chiefs attack, the Sunwolves then worked their way downfield and patiently controlled possession in the closing stages to seal a famous win - their first ever away from home in 24 attempts.

Gallagher Chiefs 15 (Alex Nankivell, Etene Nanai-Seturo tries; Damian McKenzie con, pen) Sunwolves 30 (Shuhei Matsuhashi, Uwe Helu, Gerhard van den Heever tries; Hayden Parker 2 cons, 3 pens) HT: 3-23.

The Gallagher Chiefs now face a trip to Christchurch to take on defending champions the Crusaders next Saturday evening (9 March, 5.15pm).

Gallagher Chiefs stunned by Sunwolves