Depending on who you spoke to this evening after the Sunwolves first game at home in Singapore this evening, the team either improved from round one or had a lot more to improve if they wanted to win any game in Super rugby. The Sunwolves went down 23 – 37 to the Southern Kings.
I’m waiting for the naysayers to come out as usual, but I have to say that this evening’s performance deserved a mix of brickbats and backslaps for sure on the Sunwolves. They had a number of chances go begging, which coach Filo Tiatia attributed to poor decision making and not being clinical enough. They did start promisingly enough, but then again what counts is the score at the final whistle. Number Eight Williem Britz was certainly leading from the front and bruising the advantage line time and time again.
The structured way in which the Sunwolves attacked and made ground was admirable, but it was that last past that certainly let them down. The inability by Hayden Cripps to convert those penalties was also a factor. Certainly Kenki Fukuoka showed his speed when he was given the space and ball.
The atmosphere around the stadium was already buoyed by a great local club final curtain raiser, which saw the underdog Bucks Football Club beat favorites Wanderers Football Club in a come from behind game that showed the best of Singapore club Rugby. Singapore is not known for being a rugby town, but an official attendance of 7679 is not shabby at all, and might beat out some of the attendance figures at the other more established markets of Sydney and Wellington.
Having great sporting events in a beautiful stadium is one thing, but there needs to be sustainability. Behind the scenes the Sunwolves held clinics with local school kids which is the norm, but beyond that they have actively engaged the technical staff of the Singapore Rugby Union. Coaches have had up close and personal contact and interaction with the Sunwolves coaching staff, and that can only be good for the development of the game locally and in Asia.
What needs to be admired though is that the Sunwolves management clearly have a plan, and a ethos which they want to stick with as a team. The positivity that was emanating from both the head coach and captain Ed Quirk was clear. To be fair the Sunwolves will be the only team this season in the competition chalking up the most frequent flyer miles while is not easy for anyone, much less someone who has played 80 minutes of a collision sport.
The question then remains – are the team from the land of the rising sun a dead rubber? Well I think that is a question that certainly needs to be put on ice till we are further down the track. 2 games do not define a season, as the five time New England Patriots of the NFL will tell you for sure, but only time will tell.