Sunwolves lose 92-17 to Cheetahs; Crusaders, Hurricanes win
The Sunwolves conceded a Super Rugby record-equaling 14 tries as they lost 92-17 at the Cheetahs on Friday.
The Japanese newcomers realized the fears of many that doubted their ability to compete in Super Rugby as they were completely overwhelmed at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, with wing Sergeal Petersen and No. 8 Paul Schoeman both collecting hat tricks for the South African team.
The Sunwolves had put in some promising early-season performances to hold off the criticism, losing by just a point to the Cheetahs at home and by three points to the three-time champion Bulls.
They had no answer to the Cheetahs on Friday to crash to a seventh loss in seven games in their first season among the southern hemisphere's best.
"At this moment we haven't been able to achieve anything but in the future we want to do better," Sunwolves captain Shota Horie said.
Despite taking an early lead through a penalty by playmaker Tusi Pisi, who was back in at No. 10 after being rested last week, the Sunwolves let in seven tries by halftime to trail 45-3. Petersen completed his hat trick in the 74th minute, scoring between the posts after one of countless clean backline breaks by the Cheetahs.
Petersen went in under the bar again three minutes later but handed the ball back to Schoeman for the No. 8 to score. Schoeman burst clear down the left in the last minute to complete his hat trick against a ragged Sunwolves defense.
The Cheetahs scored the highest number of tries by a South African team in Super Rugby, and equaled the competition-record 14 tries by New Zealand's Crusaders against Australia's New South Wales 14 years ago in 2002.
Skipper Horie said his Sunwolves team had wanted to pay tribute to the people of the Japanese city of Kumamoto, which has been shaken by two powerful earthquakes over the last two days.
"The people in Kumamoto must be struggling and having a tough time," he said. "We wanted to give the people in Kumamoto courage and unfortunately we couldn't do it."
In New Zealand earlier Friday, former All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg marked his return to Super Rugby after a seven-month layoff with two tries as the Crusaders beat Argentina's Jaguares 32-15 with a bonus point.
Dagg started at fullback for the first time this season in which the Crusaders posted their sixth win in eight rounds to close within two points of the table-topping Chiefs.
Dagg's first try was one of two scored by the Crusaders while the Jaguares were reduced to 14 men by the sin-binning of fullback Joaquin Tuculet. Flyhalf Richie Mo'unga also scored during that spell, helping the Crusaders to a 22-3 halftime lead.
Dagg's second try and another to Kieran Read clinched a bonus point, though the Jaguares scored second-half tries through Facundo Isa and Santiago González Iglesias.
The Wellington-based Hurricanes beat the Rebels 38-13 in Melbourne for their fifth consecutive win, with flyhalf Beauden Barrett setting up the first try and scoring the last in an 18-point personal haul from two tries and four conversions.
The Hurricanes rebounded after conceding the first try, to Rebels winger Dom Shipperly, and led 26-8 at half time. The Hurricanes finished with six tries to move to No. 3 in the New Zealand conference in a solid buildup for the next round against the league-leading Chiefs.