The St.George Queensland Reds have claimed their first win of the 2019 Super Rugby season with a come from behind 34-31 victory over the Sunwolves at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo.
Queensland trailed 21-5 at halftime before they launched a seven-minute, three-try assault midway through the second stanza to set up a memorable win.
The hosts wrestled back momentum to steal the lead in the final ten minutes, before a Tate McDermott try equalled the ledger in the 74th minute.
With the game entering its dying seconds, Hamish Stewart stepped up to slot a 24-metre penalty goal in the 79th minute to seal a breakthrough victory for the Reds.
Brandon Paenga-Amosa bagged a double for the Queenslanders, while the impact of interchange scrumhalf McDermott was immense in the side’s maiden 2019 win.
Reds head coach Brad Thorn said: “The guys never stopped believing. They believed right to the end and even when the Sunwolves got the penalty to go in front, I just loved the belief they had in each other. I’m hoping this sets a marker going forward.
“It was hard going in the first half. We didn’t have our rhythm, but we regrouped at halftime. We rebuilt in the second half and sometimes that momentum and energy can shift in the game and the guys just played for each other. They played good rugby, they ran hard, they kicked well, and the set-piece was good today.
“Hamish Stewart at fullback had a really strong game. To kick that final goal was awesome. He’s worked away with Dave Alred in the pre-season and during NRC and that’s what it’s all about as a goal kicker to kick that last goal,” said Thorn.
After having the better of the early stages, the Sunwolves opened the scoring account in the 11th minute through a Jamie Booth try. Hayden Parker converted to give the home side a 7-nil lead.
Queensland quickly replied with a five-pointer of their own, as Liam Wright crashed over following a dominant driving maul down field. Isaac Lucas missed the conversion to trail 7-5 after the opening 20 minutes.
The Sunwolves scored four minutes later through Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco after some brilliant counter-attacking Rugby. Parker again converted to stretch the home side’s lead to 14-5.
Despite some resilient Reds defence on their own try-line, the hosts added their third on the stroke of halftime after Dan Pryor crossed on the back of a neat play on the right edge. Parker continued his perfect form with the boot to make the score 21-5 at the halftime break.
It was a different Queensland side who returned to the field in the second half, as the side strung together four tries in the second half to the Sunwolves one.
After dominating possession in the opening stages of the second half, Queensland crossed for their second try of the match. Interchange hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa burrowed his way over close to the line. Stewart converted to bring the Reds within nine points at 21-12 with 20 minutes left to play.
Momentum continued for the Queenslanders, as Harry Hopert latched onto a lovely Samu Kerevi flick pass to score under the posts in the 61st minute. Stewart again converted to lessen the deficit to two at 21-19.
Queensland’s resurgence was unrelenting as they took the lead for the first time in the 65th minute. Paenga-Amosa crossed for his second try, as the hooker again dug his way through the Sunwolves defence. Stewart added his third conversion to go out to a 26-21 lead.
The Sunwolves quickly replied with a Keisuke Uchida try, before Parker added the extras to reclaim the lead with 10 minutes remaining.
Parker added a penalty goal minutes later to stretch the Sunwolves lead to five in the 73rd minute.
But the Queenslanders weren’t done yet, as the side drew equal again in the 76th minute. A Harry Hockings charge down spilt the ball close to the Sunwolves line, before McDermott cleaned up the scraps to score. Stewart missed the tough conversion to set up a grandstand finish at 31-all.
Filipo Daugunu dashed down the field off the restart, before the side earnt a penalty chance from 24-metres out. In the dying seconds, Stewart stepped up once again and slotted the penalty to hand the Reds their breakthrough victory.
The Reds return home next weekend when they host the Brumbies at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday afternoon March 24 at 2.50pm AEST. Tickets available viahttp://bit.ly/2019RedsTickets
Sunwolves 31 (Tries: Booth, Warren-Vosayaco, Pryor, Uchida Conversions: Parker 4, Penalties: Parker 1) defeated by St.George Queensland Reds 34 (Tries: Wright, Paenga-Amosa 2, Hoopert, McDermott, Conversions: Stewart 3, Penalties: Stewart 1) at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium on March 16, 2019.