TOKYO – Hamish Stewart nailed a last-minute penalty as the Reds produced a superb comeback to beat Japan’s Sunwolves 34-31 on Saturday, and post their first win of the season.
The Aussies trailed 21-5 at halftime, but their bench provided an instant impact after the break for the visitors in Tokyo, scoring four tries in 16 minutes, two of them by Brandon Paenga-Amosa.
After a Hayden Parker penalty restored a five-point advantage for the Sunwolves with eight minutes left, Tate McDermott pounced on a loose ball from a Harry Hockings charge-down to tie things up again.
Stewart missed the conversion, but made no mistake with the late penalty as the Reds, thrashed 63-28 on their previous visit to Tokyo, won for the first time in four matches this season.
It was a stinging defeat for the Sunwolves, who looked on course for a victory that would have boosted their survival hopes, with critics calling for them to be booted out of Super Rugby.
With tournament organisers set to meet this week to discuss the competition’s future, the Sunwolves players started the game as if their futures depended on it.
Tries from Jamie Booth, Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco and Dan Pryor put the hosts in the driving seat, while Parker’s left boot paced the hosts with 11 points.
But the game swung on three quick-fire scores in the second half as Paenga-Amosa smuggled the ball over the line just before the hour mark, and Harry Hoopert crashed over moments later.
Stewart converted both, and when Paenga-Amosa scored a carbon-copy try in the 65th minute, and Stewart again added the extras, the Reds suddenly led by five points.
Keisuke Uchida darted over to level things at 26-26, and Parker’s boot looked to have stopped the rot.
But the Sunwolves, who recorded their first-ever away win with a stunning 30-15 upset over the Chiefs earlier this month, were denied a second victory of the season after Hockings charged down Uchida’s clearance, allowing McDermott and Stewart to finish the job.
Sunwolves v Reds | Super Rugby 2019 Rd 5 Highlights— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) March 16, 2019
A terrific second-half fightback saw @Reds_Rugby pinch their first win of the season in the final minute against @Sunwolves in Tokyo.#SuperRugby #SUNvRED pic.twitter.com/EXQsSLTjhZ