TOKYO – New Zealand's Hurricanes recovered their puff after a shaky start Friday, scoring three second-half tries to floor the Sunwolves 29-23 in a frenetic Super Rugby clash.
Earlier, a huge performance from the hulking Carlu Sadie helped bring a change of fortune for the Golden Lions as they survived a late fightback to beat the Waikato Chiefs 23-17.
With the World Cup less than six months away, the Hurricanes rested All Blacks trio Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett and Ardie Savea and they struggled initially in Tokyo against a Sunwolves team still smarting after being axed from Super Rugby from the end of next season.
Semisi Masirewa bagged a sixth-minute breakaway try before flyhalf Hayden Parker, who went five-for-six with the boot, slotted three penalties to give the home side a nice cushion.
Parker then dinked a superb cross-kick for Masirewa to chase into the corner, the left-winger finishing with an extravagant swallow dive as the Sunwolves went into the break leading 23-10.
But the Hurricanes, champions in 2016 and semi-finalists last season, roared back with 19 unanswered points, Ben Lam crashing over before Chase Tiatia and Wes Goosen added tries to complete the comeback for the Wellington side's sixth win of the campaign.
"We're happy to win, but give credit to the Sunwolves for putting us under pressure," said Hurricanes captain TJ Perenara, who scored his side's lone first-half try.
"The main thing for us is that we didn't make as many errors in the second half -- that's what hurt us in the first half."
Once again, the Sunwolves paid the price for some poor lineout play, notably in the build-up to Goosen's go-ahead try.
"Our game plan is awesome," insisted captain Dan Pryor after the team's seventh loss of the year.
"On our day we can beat anyone, but lapses in concentration can give teams easy tries which we can't afford."
It was a well-deserved victory in Hamilton for the Lions, whose preparations were disrupted by coach Swys de Bruin returning home just hours before kick off for personal reasons.
Sadie demolished the Chiefs' scrum and, not content with winning penalties, the 21-year-old also crashed over from close range to bag a try for himself.
It set the Lions up for a 20-0 half-time lead which they held until the Chiefs struck back with three late tries.
The home side's hopes of snatching a late win were dashed when, with only seconds remaining, they turned over the ball and Elton Jantjies snapped over a drop goal to extend the margin to six points.
"What a game," said Lions skipper Warren Whiteley.
"It was a nail-biter. I'm so proud of the boys – it wasn't an easy week, a lot of travel and some adversity."
The Lions, beaten finalists for the past three years, have been off the pace so far this season and arrived in New Zealand languishing at the bottom of the South African conference.
Their revival in Hamilton proved a setback for the Chiefs, who felt they were turning their own season around when they beat the Auckland Blues last week for their third straight win after losing their opening four matches.
"If we had a few more minutes maybe we would have got it," said captain Brad Weber.AFP