Winger Marcel Brache scored a quick-fire hat-trick to inspire the Western Force to a 40-22 win over the Sunwolves that ended their seven-match losing run in Saturday’s Super Rugby clash in Tokyo.
The Force got off to the worst possible start when Sunwolves flyer Akihito Yamada barged over in the fourth minute.
But American-born Brache sparked the Force in dramatic fashion, scoring three tries by the 20th minute to set the visitors on their way.
The six-tries-to-four win also lifted the Force clear of both the Kings and Sunwolves in the battle to avoid the wooden spoon.
But the Force missed out on a bonus point after Yamada crossed for his second try in the 79th minute.
Force skipper Matt Hodgson was disappointed with the late fadeout, but relieved to come away with a win.
“It wasn’t the start we were after. But… I asked the team to be tough in those hard moments, and rebound from it,” Hodgson said.
“I thought we did, and got momentum back our way for most of the first half.
“Obviously disappointed they crossed the line a couple of times (late). But I was rapt with our attack.”
Brache got the ball rolling in the fifth minute when he intercepted an ambitious pass from Harumichi Tatekawa before racing to the line.
Brache notched his second in the 15th minute after a smart break from fullback Dane Haylett-Petty opened up the Sunwolves’ defence.
And the hat-trick was complete in the 20th minute when Brache made the most of a barnstorming run from prop Francois van Wyk.
The Sunwolves didn’t let the Brache onslaught deter them from playing attacking rugby.
But with their turnovers continuing to rise, the Force soon had try No.4 on the board when Brynard Stander crashed over in the corner.
Haylett-Petty played a key role in a number of the Force’s attacking thrusts, and the 26-year-old even pulled off a try-saving tackle on the stroke of halftime to deny fullback Riaan Viljoen.
A rout of epic proportions appeared to be on the cards when Ben McCalman’s try extended the gap to 33-5 early in the second half.
But the Sunwolves dominated the match from that point on, scoring three tries to one in the final 22 minutes to deny the visitors a bonus point.
The Force now have two wins to their name, and will be aiming to build on their latest result when they host the Blues in Perth next Saturday.