The Reds fought back from 21-5 down at half-time to beat the Sunwolves 34-31 in Tokyo on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Reds have claimed their first win of the season. The Sunwolves had the opportunity to add a second victory to their 2019 tally, but were ultimately outlasted by a more determined Reds outfit.
The hosts dominated for much of the first half. Scrumhalf Jamie Booth and No 8 Rahboni Warren Vosayaco crossed the line, while flyhalf Hayden Parker added the extras.
Flank Dan Pryor crashed over shortly before half-time. The Reds fought hard to keep the hosts out initially, but were eventually breached. The Sunwolves went to the break with a commanding 21-5 lead.
The Reds enjoyed more possession and territory during the early stages of the second half. They troubled the Sunwolves at the scrums and forced the hosts to concede a series of penalties.
And yet they only managed to score their second try – through replacement hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa – in the 58th minute. Hamish Stewart’s penalty reduced the deficit to nine points.
The momentum was with the Reds, and replacement Harry Hoopert scored under the posts. With Stewart’s conversion, the visitors were suddenly only two points behind the Sunwolves.
The hosts had no answer to this onslaught. The Reds continued to hammer away at the Sunwolves, and Paenga-Amosa scored from close range to give the visitors the lead.
Just when it seemed as if the game was slipping away from the Sunwolves, they managed to hit back. The Reds made a mistake deep in their own half to hand the hosts possession, and from there replacement scrumhalf Keisuke Uchida scored.
Parker kicked the conversion, and then a penalty goal to steer his side to a five-point lead. There was more drama, though, when the Sunwolves failed to clear their lines five minutes from time.
Replacement scrumhalf Tate McDermott scored after the Reds managed to charge down an attempted clearance. Stewart failed to edge his team into the lead, though, as his conversion attempt was well wide.
The Reds enjoyed one final opportunity to win the game. Stewart stepped up to nail a penalty goal in the 79th minute and give his side a narrow win.
Sunwolves – Tries: Jamie Booth, Rahboni Warren Vosayaco, Dan Pryor. Conversions: Hayden Parker (4). Penalty: Parker.
Reds – Tries: Liam Wright, Brandon Paenga-Amosa (2), Harry Hoopert, Tate McDermott. Conversions: Hamish Stewart (3). Penalty: Stewart.
Sunwolves – 15 Jason Emery, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Sione Teaupa, 12 Michael Little, 11 Hosea Saumaki, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Jamie Booth, 8 Rahboni Warren Vosayaco, 7 Dan Pryor, 6 Ben Gunter, 5 Tom Rowe, 4 Uwe Helu, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Atsushi Sakate, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Subs: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Asaeli Valu, 19 James Moore, 20 Amanaki Mafi, 21 Keisuke Uchida, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Semisi Masirewa.
Reds – 15 Hamish Stewart, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi (c), 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Sefa Naivalu, 10 Isaac Lucas, 9 Moses Sorovi, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Liam Wright, 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Harry Hockings, 3 Ruan Smith , 2 Alex Mafi, 1 JP Smith.
Subs: 16 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 17 Harry Hooper, 18 Feao Fotuaika, 19 Angus Blyth, 20 Caleb Timu, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Teti Tela , 23 Filipo Daugunu.
Photo: Toru Hanai/Getty Images