Singaporeans were treated to an entertaining try fest as Super Rugby made its debut at the National Stadium with the Toyota Cheetahs fighting back from 18 points down to beat the Hito-Com Sunwolves 32-31 on Saturday.
The new Japanese outfit were playing the first of three matches in Singapore this season and quickly settled into their adopted home with right winger Akihito Yamada scoring the opening try in the fourth minute.
Sunwolves' Akihito Yamada flying through the air to score his team's first try. Photo: Sport Singapore
It got even better under the closed roof for the Asians when Yamada crossed twice more to complete a standout first half hat-trick after Samoan flyhal Tusi Pisi had ably assisted the later scores with neat kicks.
Sunwolves skipper Shota Horie, who scored the Japanese side's first ever try in their opening 26-13 loss to the Lions a fortnight ago, then added a fourth score just before halftime to the delight of the 8,808 fans, who were predominately cheering the Asians.
Sunwolves and Cheetahs contest a line out. Photo: Sport Singapore
Pisi kicked a penalty to extend the lead to 31-13 at the start of the second half but the South Africa side eventually found their feet, roaring back with tries from flyhalf Niel Marais, flanker Uzair Cassiem and replacement Boom Prinslo to snatch the win.
"The boys who came out in the second half put their hearts out there tonight, and they really made a difference, we've got to give them credit," Cheetahs captain Francois Venter said.
"But credit to (the Sunwolves) for their first-half performance, they really put us under pressure, surprised us with a few tricks."
It was a first win for the Cheetahs after two opening defeats, while the Sunwolves head back to Tokyo with the consolation of a first point after losing the match by less than seven.
Cheetahs’ Uzair Cassiem runs through to score his sides second try. Photo: Sport Singapore
Next up is a clash with the Melbourne Rebels at home on Saturday before they return to Singapore the following week to take on another South African side, the Bulls.
Head coach Mark Hammett, who had conducted a training session with the Singapore national team before Saturday's match, had mixed feelings after just missing out on a historic first victory.
"Once the disappointment of the loss goes, we will be really happy with a lot of things," the former All Black said.
"Scoring four tries is something we can be really proud of, and the way we scored them as well... but in the final part, we lost the game, and we could've made history."