The Stormers sunk to new lows on Saturday as a last-gasp Hayden Parker drop goal condemned the Cape side to a first ever defeat to the Sunwolves at the Mong Kok Stadium in Hong Kong.
In sweltering conditions, the Stormers never quite got going once again, despite a few impressive scrums and lineout drives, and this defeat surely has to result in serious questions being asked about coach Robbie Fleck’s future at the franchise as they remain at the bottom of the SA Conference and are out of playoff contention.
They failed to capitalise on a number of attacking opportunities, and it came back to haunt them as Parker – a left-footed kicker – slotted the winning drop goal with his right boot from the Stormers 10m line to record an historic victory for the Japanese outfit.
Despite boasting the bigger pack and more experienced campaigners, the Stormers never gained real dominance in the physical exchanges as the hungry Sunwolves kept playing an energetic game that wore out the South Africans in the hot and humid conditions.
Knowing that the heat may catch up to them, the Stormers probably should’ve looked to pile on the points in the first half, especially with penalties to the posts.
Flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis missed an early touch-finder from a penalty, but soon after that, a bit of Dillyn Leyds magic put the Stormers ahead.
Picking up a loose ball inside his own half, Leyds raced downfield and then dummied past a few defenders before forcing his way over in the corner for a sensational touchdown that will be a contender for the try of the season award.
The Stormers had two more real chances to score, but Ramone Samuels was blown up for hawking his lineout throw, and then SP Marais knocked-on following a searing Seabelo Senatla break.
The Cape side enjoyed some luck, though, when JJ Engelbrecht intercepted a pass from Sunwolves captain Willie Britz to increase the lead to 12-0 after just 22 minutes.
Sparked by a snipe by former Highlanders scrumhalf Fumiaki Tanaka, the Sunwolves hit back as his grubber bounced up for centre Timothy Lafaele, whose scoring pass to Parker appeared forward, but the referee allowed it.
HIGHLIGHTS: 2018 Super Rugby Week 14: Sunwolves v Stormers
A clutch last minute drop-goal from Hayden Parker sees the @Sunwolves upset the @THESTORMERS 26-23 in a history-making first Super Rugby contest in Hong Kong. #SuperRugby #Week14 #SUNvSTO pic.twitter.com/4oEDFlBgQG
The Stormers had the energy for one further try as No 8 Nizaam Carr got involved with two prominent carries and an offload – after being a recipient of Cobus Wiese’s pop off the ground.
Dewaldt Duvenage put in a grubber, which Leyds hacked ahead and dived on to the ball just before the in-goal line to extend the lead to 17-7.
After that, the home side took the initiative and never gave up.
Parker reduced the deficit with a penalty before halftime, and the Sunwolves clawed their way back into the game as the heat took its toll on the Stormers, who started to slip off a number of tackles.
A thrilling passage of play in the 57th minute saw the hosts show off impressive handling skills, and flank Michael Leitch put former Bulls lock Grant Hattingh over for a try.
Parker’s conversion levelled the scores at 17-17, with the Stormers out on their feet.
FULL-TIME: #SuperRugby Week #14
Drama in Hong Kong as @Sunwolves Parker kicks last minute drop goal to beat @stormers in first ever match in China #SUNvSTO
Match Details: https://t.co/mGJLCTKuvg pic.twitter.com/HXXXDTXzuS
Marais and Parker exchanged a few penalties until the closing minutes, and with the score at 23-23 and no time left on the clock, the Sunwolves worked their way back upfield after repelling a final Stormers surge.
The Capetonians couldn’t win the ball back, and Parker dummied off his left foot and banged over a “woer-woer” drop goal with his right to clinch a memorable victory for the Sunwolves, and heap more misery on the beleaguered Stormers, who extended their 100 percent losing record away from home this season.
Sunwolves 26 – Tries: Hayden Parker, Grant Hattingh. Conversions: Parker (2). Penalties: Parker (3). Drop goal: Parker (1).
Stormers 23 – Tries: Dillyn Leyds (2), JJ Engelbrecht. Conversion: Jean-Luc du Plessis (1). Penalties: SP Marais (2).