Super Rugby: Sunwolves inspired to historic win over Chiefs by death of Blues player Michael Tamoaieta

Sunwolves skipper Michael Little has revealed the impact that the death of Blues player Michael Tamoaieta had in inspiring his side to one of the greatest upsets in the history of Super Rugby.

The perennial Japanese strugglers earned their first away win in franchise history when they beat the Chiefs 30-15 in Hamilton on Saturday night.

The victory came hours after the announcement of the sudden death of 23-year-old Tamoaieta, who was well known to many of the Sunwolves' large Kiwi contingent.

"He kind of came into Harbour the year after I did but all Kiwis kind of know each other so it did hit pretty hard," said the 25-year-old Aucklander. "It's emotional talking about it. He's a good man and he is going to be missed.

"We've got a huge Kiwi bunch in the crew so it hit does hit home pretty hard. It's not the news you want to hear the morning of the game. My wife rang me… and broke the news to me. It was a hard couple of hours. It's always on your mind coming into the game and I'm glad we got that performance.

"We talked about it. It's going to hurt players all over NZ."

The win broke a 24-game losing streak outside of Japan since the franchise began in 2015, and Little said it reflected the overall improvement in standards there.

"The boys put in a lot of effort and it's a credit to them. We work bloody hard for our small wins and to get the victory in New Zealand... it's probably the hardest place to tour.

"It's tough coming up against a Chiefs outfit that have been a bit unlucky in the last couple weeks. We knew they were going to bring it physically and we just stepped up.

"Growth in Japan (rugby) is going pretty strong and we tried to bring that quick, fast rugby and we tried to show that tonight."

On the flipside of the coin, the Chiefs were left ruing yet another disappointing performance as their winless campaign sank to new depths.

"We just couldn't get the ball in that first half," said coach Colin Cooper. "We made a huge amount of mistakes. Eleven turnovers in that first half alone.

"We were struggling to retain the ball, but when we did…we made really good go forward."

Copper admitted he'd been taken by surprise with the physicality of the Sunwolves, particularly at the breakdown.

"We've just got to stick together. It's really tough times for us now, particularly to lose at home like that.

"We'll be having a good look at why we're spilling the ball and why we're making mistakes."

And it doesn't get any easier for the Hamilton-based franchise, who face the rampaging Crusaders and the Hurricanes over the next fortnight.


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