The Brumbies have escaped with an opening 2018 win over the Sunwolves, 32-25 in Tokyo.
The ACT franchise has been widely tipped to top the Australian conference, but an outing like theirs in Tokyo didn’t give credence to much of that hype, trailing 14-3 just 15 minutes in.
They managed to claw their way back as the match ticked on, against a far improved Sunwolves side, but there were few clinical elements in their game, with even their trusty set piece failing to click early.
It was the Sunwolves who crossed first, with a rolling maul try to Hosea Saumaki in the eighth minute, putting them in front.
That score was a sign of what is shaping to be an improved Sunwolves side, far from the team that has managed just three wins in two seasons.
The Brumbies found themselves under increasing pressure as the half ticked on, against a relentless Sunwolves attack that strung together 20 phases before a Chance Peni fumbled an intercept attempt just shy of the Brumbies’ line.
When the Sunwolves had their next chance they didn’t fall short, with centre Timothy Lafaele slipping through the Brumbies defenders to stretch the hosts’ lead to 11 points.
The Brumbies had a possible reply denied by a Henry Speight knock-on, but they eventually hit back through replacement back rower Lachie McCaffrey.
Their positivity was short-lived, with some weak Brumbies defence leading to a second Saumaki try.
It took a slick play from Christian Lealiifano, busting a tackle and offloading a pinpoint try to Kyle Godwin, for the Brumbies to close the gap just shy of the break, only for the Sunwolves to go just short of their own five-pointer.
Kuridrani had the Brumbies in front just after half-time, with a pass from Sunwolves captain Yutaka Nagare bouncing off the goal post pads and into the centre’s arms for him to fall over the line.
A rolling maul try for Josh Mann-Rea gave them an eight-point buffer with 25 minutes to go.
New Brumbies recruit Isi Naisarani showed no signs of second year blues, with both he and teenager Rob Valetini throwing their weight around with ball in hand, before Valetini was struck down with a leg injury just 23 minutes in.
Tom Banks had the sealer for the Brumbies in the 68th minute, finishing off a strong chain of attack, collecting a McCaffrey pass to score.
Sunwolves' Hayden Parker gave them a consolation bonus point with a last-gasp penalty goal narrowing the final margin to just seven points.
The Brumbies travel to Brisbane next week, to face Reds at Suncorp Stadium, while the Sunwolves take on the Rebels in Tokyo.
Tries: Saumaki 2, Lafaele
Cons: Nakamura, Parker
Tries: McCaffrey, Godwin, Kuridrani, Mann-Rea
Cons: Lealiifano 2