Sunwolves give Lions an almighty scare
Humiliated 7-94 at the same ground last year, the visiting team set out to make amends and led by five points with 20 minutes remaining of the round Five match.
But the Japanese outfit could not maintain the momentum and conceded tries to Malcolm Marx and Rohan Janse van Rensburg before a late Atsushi Sakate score secured a losing bonus point.
It was a dramatic improvement by the Sunwolves, who only last weekend crumbled 22-50 to the Sharks in the first of two matches in South Africa.
The Sunwolves opened the scoring via a Jimmy Tupou penalty before the Lions opened the try-scoring floodgates via an Andries Coetzee converted score.
The Lions extended their lead a few minutes later when big lock Lourens Erasmus scored his side's second try, which Elton Jantjies converted.
The Sunwolves then caught the Lions defence napping when Kotaro Matsushima scored his side's first try.
Both sides went on to score another try each before the break with the score at 19-17 in favour of the Lions at half-tme.
Lions wing Aphiwe Dyantyi was on teh scoresheet straight after the first kick-off in the second half when he charged down a Sunwolves kick before running in for a try.
The Sunwolves then went on to score another two converted tries which gave them the lead at the 60-minute mark before the Lions turned on the gas with two tries of their own which set them on course for the win with less than 10 minutes on the clock.
That was before Sakate's late try made things interesting in the final minute, but in the end it was too little too late for the Japanese outfit.
"The Sunwolves have improved massively since last year," said Springbok hooker Marx, whose two tries and all-round performance earned him the man-of-the-match award.
Sunwolves skipper Yutaka Nagare was surprisingly downbeat given the brave performance from a team that have suffered many embarrassing away defeats since their 2016 debut.
"This was a game we really wanted to win, but my team were not good enough. We just have to keep trying," he said via an interpreter.
Man of the match: Malcolm Marx was again the best of the rest throughout the match and he scored two tries as well.
Tries: Coetzee, Erasmus, Marx 2, Dyantyi, Janse van Rensburg
Cons: Janties 5
Tries: Matsushima, Millar, Saumaki, Himeno, Sakate
Cons: Tupou 4, Nakamura
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Francois Mostert, 6 Albertus Smith, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Lourens Erasmus, 3 Jacobus Adriaanse, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Sithembiso Sithole, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Shaun Reynolds.
Sunwolves: 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Lomano Lemeki, 13 William Tupou, 12 Michael Little, 11 Hosea Saumaki, 10 Harumichi Tatekawa, 9 Yutaka Nagare (captain), 8 Michael Leitch (captain), 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 5 Wimpie van der Walt, 4 Kazuki Himeno, 3 Jiwon Koo, 2 Yusuke Niwai, 1 Craig Millar.
Replacements: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Shintaro Ishihara, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 Willem Britz, 21 Keisuke Uchida, 22 Ryoto Nakamura, 23 Ryuji Noguchi.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Egon Seconds (South Africa), Stephen Geldenhuys (South Africa)
TMO: Willie Vos (South Africa)
AFP & @rugby365com