The Sunwolves wrapped up their second Super Rugby season on a winning note Saturday, coming from behind to beat the Blues 48-21.
In arguably the best performance in their short history, Filo Tiatia's side demolished the three-time winners from Auckland in sweltering heat, which reached 43 C pitchside at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.
Timothy Lafaele led the way with three tries, Keisuke Uchida, Ryohei Yamanaka, Kaito Shigeno and Yoshitaka Tokunaga also crossed the chalk and there was a penalty try for good measure as the Sunwolves erased a 21-14 halftime deficit by erupting for six second-half tries.
"That's one of the best performances I've seen from this team," said Tiatia, who was assistant coach in the team's debut season.
"We were resilient and competitive for the full 80 minutes. It was a great spectacle and the way we defended allowed us to create pressure and score some enterprising tries, which is difficult to do against a good side like the Blues."
Blues coach Tana Umaga -- who played alongside Tiatia at club, Super and test-match level -- agreed.
"I have to congratulate the Sunwolves," he said. "They deserved the win and they won well. They showed great fortitude after (two big losses) in South Africa."
The game started with the Sunwolves competitive but still slipping off a few tackles. And with a couple of calls going their way, James Parsons and Gerard Cowley-Tuioti gave the visitors an early 14-0 lead.
But the hosts then made their intent known with Lafaele and Uchida going over either side of a Michael Collins intercept try as the teams turned around with the Blues up 21-14.
The second half, however, was a completely different affair.
With Shuhei Matsuhashi seemingly grabbing every loose ball and Kotaro Matsushima beating defenders at will and tackling like a demon, the visitors raised their game to new heights.
Yamanaka scored with his first touch of the ball in the 54th minute as the Sunwolves bench made a telling impact before the game turned four minutes later with Jerome Kaino handed his second yellow card in as many weeks for a high tackle.
With the All Blacks flanker off the field, the Sunwolves forwards took charge winning a penalty try to take the lead and creating the platform from which Shigeno scored in the 65th minute.
While the Blues seemed sapped of any energy, the Sunwolves simply got better and better with Lafaele touching down twice, before Tokunaga put the finishing touches on a resounding win two minutes from time.
"Attitude is a big factor as soon as you cross the white line," said Blues captain Parsons. "The Sunwolves had it and we didn't. We need to take a good hard look in the mirror and be honest with ourselves."
His Sunwolves counterpart Willie Britz, who once again was one of his side's star performers, said it was a collective effort.
"There were 23 leaders out on the field today. They all gave it their all and put their heart into it. The execution was good and we really lifted the intensity in defense."
And Britz made special mention of the center pairing of Lafaele and William Tupou and replacement back Yamanaka.
"They made some great reads and made some great hits. That got us on the front foot in defense and added momentum so it was easier to make turnovers."
To put the win into context, the Sunwolves did what no Australian Super Rugby side has been able to do on 25 occasions this season -- beat a team from New Zealand. They also beat a side that just a few weeks ago defeated the British and Irish Lions.
"It just speaks volumes of the players," said Tiatia. "We were put under the pump (in South Africa). But we got a lot of learnings from a team and leadership perspective."
"We changed the game plan a little today and tried to hold onto the ball longer. We wanted the players to express themselves when they had the opportunity and many of the tries we got were from pressure and the excitement when we did not have the ball."