Super Rugby Aotearoa concluded on the weekend in anti-climatic fashion due to the recent community transmission of COVID-19 in Auckland.
The visiting Hurricanes have snuck home to beat the Sunwolves 29-23 in a frenetic encounter in the Japanese capital.
For the home side, Rahboni Vosayco moved from the pack to inside centre while the Hurricanes decided to leave All Black flyhalf Beauden Barrett at home, giving Fletcher Smith an opportunity in his absence.
The match sparked into action when, in the sixth minute, Vosayco burst through the line off the back of a lineout before putting try-scoring machine Semisi Masirewa away for his first of two tries for the evening.
Sunwolves flyhalf Hayden Parker had a penalty kick after Vaea Fifita infringed at the lineout to put the Sunwolves up by ten after fourteen minutes.
The Hurricanes struck back immediately though, as captain TJ Perenara sold a dummy off the edge of a ruck and ran 20 metres to score under the posts. Fletcher Smith added the extras before Parker took control of the match. Parker added two penalties in six minutes before a cross-field kick put Masirewa in for his second.
Parker obliged with the conversion and, despite a Smith penalty goal, the Sunwolves held a healthy lead of 13 heading into half-time.
In the second half, two quick penalties conceded by the Sunwolves placed the Hurricanes in prime position to cut the deficit. Ngani Laumape put one on the toe and it sat up beautifully for Ben Lam who skipped home for the try. Lam then left the field with a suspected cramp and was replaced by the 30-year-old James Marshall.
Just nine minutes later, Sunwolves replacement scrum half Fumiaki Tanaka attempted to clear out of their 22 with a box kick, but Fifita charged it down and the rebound gave fullback Chase Tiatia a try. The conversion by Fletcher Smith cut the Sunwolves margin to a single point.
An interesting moment then came in the 67th minute, when the Hurricanes earned a scrum penalty which was then reversed due to the fact that replacement Sam Henwood swung Fumiaki Tanaka to the ground after the whistle.
The Sunwolves had not managed to score a point since the 30th minute and didn’t help themselves when a botched lineout move meant the Hurricanes were able to spread the ball to the wing, where some individual brilliance by Wes Goosen put them into the lead for the first time in the game.
The South-African born Goosen chased his own grubber kick where he re-collected it and scored. Fletcher Smith’s conversion took his personal points tally to nine as he stretched the Hurricanes lead to six points.
The Sunwolves tried valiantly to reclaim the lead, but a knock on from Jamie Henry in the 78th minute from the back of a lineout ultimately sealed the win for the Wellington side.
The Hurricanes win sees them secure their spot at second in the New Zealand conference. They will return home next week to take on a Chiefs side coming off a six point loss to the Lions from South Africa.
The Sunwolves on the other hand will be disappointed with the loss, especially with the fact they were kept scoreless for 50 minutes of the game. The Sunwolves will play the Highlanders in another Friday night clash next week as they look to lift themselves off the bottom of the Australian conference.