Reds seal first win of season in Tokyo fightback

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

The Queensland Reds have sealed their first win of the season with a thrilling second-half fightback against the Sunwolves in Tokyo.

A Hamish Stewart penalty in the 79th minute handed the Reds a 34-31 victory after an injection of bench players sparked a Queensland turnaround.

Trailing by 16 points at the break, the Reds scored three tries in seven minutes to take the lead before an error at the restart allowed the Sunwolves to score again and regain the lead.

But the Reds dug in and when Harry Hockings charged down a Sunwolves kick, Tate McDermott was there to pick up the scraps and dive over for a try that again levelled the scores.

Stewart missed the conversion but stepped up to slot a penalty after the Reds drove deep into their attacking zone from the restart after an outstanding run from Filipo Daugunu gave them the field position they needed to be in scoring range.

Daugunu came on in a second-half backline reshuffle and was among the bench players that reshaped the match for the Reds.

The injection of McDermott at scrumhalf for Sorovi allowed the Reds quick ball at the breakdown and they played a simpler game, using their forward strength and outstanding fitness to their advantage, with replacements Hockings, Feao Fotuaika and Brandon Paenga-Amosa among the pack leaders in the revival.

 Dan Pryor of Sunwolves dives to score his side's third try during the Super Rugby match between Sunwolves and Reds at Prince Chichibu Memorial Ground on March 16, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images for Sunwolves)

 

Paenga-Amosa finished with a second-half double as the Reds clawed their way back into a match that was crucial to their season.

Without Wallabies forwards Izack Rodda and Taniela Tupou, as well as the injured Bryce Hegarty, the match was never going to be an easy win for the Reds.

And things looked dire early as the Reds failed to hold on to the ball and made simple defensive errors against a Sunwolves side that spread the ball and attacked at will.

The home side scored three tries in the opening half, leaving the Reds trailing 21-5 at the break, with Liam Wright's effort from a driving maul the only bright spot.

Some desperate defence - including Duncan Paia'aua and Scott Higginbotham denying tries with individual efforts - was the exception in a first-half riddled with several failures to number up.

Amanaki Mafi made his Super Rugby return early in the second half, receiving a great reception from the crowd when he came on.

But he was penalised almost instantly for attempting to shut down the Reds maul, although he quickly redeemed himself, helping hold Kerevi up over the line as he attempted to score.JP Smith of Reds is tackled during the Super Rugby match between Sunwolves and Reds at Prince Chichibu Memorial Ground on March 16, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Toru Hanai/Getty Images)

The Reds' dominance at the set piece was finally rewarded, with Brandon Paenga-Amosa diving over after Queensland kept the ball in hand following back-to-back scrum penalties.

The injection of McDermott at scrumhalf paid dividends for the Reds, who finally started to get quick ball at the breakdown and importantly, maintained possession to build massive pressure on the home side.

Paenga-Amosa was relegated to the bench for this match and he responded outstandingly when brought on in the second half, giving the Reds the lead when he dived over for his second try.

Their hard work came unstuck though when Isaac Lucas and Chris Feauai-Sautia clashed at the restart, the handling error gifting the Sunwolves the ball deep in their attacking zone, with Keisuke Uchida scoring to lock the scores up and Parker's radar boot returning their lead.

A Parker penalty minutes later gave them a 31-26 lead.

McDermott's try tied the scores again before Stewart slotted the late penalty for a win that keeps the Reds season alive as they head back to Suncorp Stadium to take on the Brumbies next Sunday.

RESULT

Reds 34

Tries: Brandon Paenga-Amosa 2, Liam Wright, Harry Hoopert, Tate McDermott

Cons: Hamish Stewart 3

Pens: Stewart

Sunwolves 31

Tries: Jamie Booth, Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, Dan Pryor, Keisuke Uchida

Cons: Hayden Parker 4

Pens: Parker