The Reds earned their third victory of the Super Rugby season by beating a plucky Sunwolves team 35-25 at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
The Reds victory is their third straight win at home in Brisbane after wins over the Cheetahs and Highlanders.
The Reds led throughout in the four tries to three victory but in the 56th minute the match hung in the balance as the Sunwolves levelled the scores at 25 all.
The match was the Sunwolves first Super Rugby match on Australian soil and the loss came with a cost as second rower suffered an ACL injury in the first half which has ended his Super Rugby season.
The Reds may also have paid a price for the result as Ayumu Goromaru injured his shoulder in a tackle and was forced to leave the field.
Reds back rower Curtis Browning scored a brace of tries for the Queenslanders side while the Sunwolves’ New Zealand import Derek Carpenter scored two for the Japanese side.
The match was almost a celebration of Japanese rugby as the Reds started two Japanese internationals in Hendrik Tui and Goromaru who kicked two penalties and two conversions.
The Reds had to show character to hold off the adventurous Japanese side in front of a season-best crowd of 19,073 in Brisbane.
The afternoon fixture and historic occasion of the Sunwolves’ first game on Australian soil brought throngs of fans both locally and from Japan, to witness an entertaining spectacle.
Crowd support was strong for both sides and Sunwolves Number 8 was former Reds player Ed Quirk.
Reds skipper James Slipper scored his first try of the season, along with a double from Number 8 Curtis Browning and a single try to Cadeyrn Neville. Reds’ Japanese international Ayumu Goromaru kicked two penalty goals and two conversions, with flyhalf Jake McIntyre adding a further conversion and penalty goal.
Reds co-interim head coach Matt O’Connor said: “I thought we did a lot of really good things and at the same time we let ourselves down. The Sunwolves are a dangerous team and we let them into the game a little too often and probably let ourselves down with inaccuracies in defence, but it was good to see the composure at the end to close it out.”
the Queenslanders showed some attacking intent with the ball but were unable to skip away beyond a four-point lead at half-time.
When the Sunwolves drew level at 25-25 in the 56th minute, the Reds knew they had to find another gear. They did so, and finally put the Sunwolves away when Nick Frisby released lock Neville on a 40-metre gallop to the tryline.
The Reds started the match on the back of welcome news that Samu Kerevi was a late inclusion after recovering from a hand injury.
Kerevi began his comeback game in style with a neat, backhand pass to send Browning on a dash down the short side.
It was a miscalculation – an overthrow in the lineout – that led to the Queenslanders first try. Greg Holmes and Liam Gill tidied up and Browning finished off with a pick and drive that the Sunwolves could not spoil.
The Reds’ second try was created by an immaculately executed, four-man lineout that presented Frisby a rare opportunity to catch the throw and spear through the forwards.
Once in behind the Sunwolves defence, the Reds had all the momentum and Slipper capitalised to surge across for a try.
But the visitors would not disappear. Centre Derek Carpenter took advantage of some sloppy defence to score and Tusi Pisi kicked the Sunwolves to within striking range of the lead at half-time.
The margin could have been even finer but for some desperate defence from Chris Feauai-Sautia.
Browning scored his second just after half-time, before Carpenter’s second try ensured a close finish.
The Reds now enter their bye and the June Test window break before returning to action against the Brumbies in Canberra on July 1.
Next week the Reds have a bye and the Sunwolves continue their tour of Australia as they play the Brumbies in Canberra.
Final Score Reds 35 (17) Sunwolves 25 (13)
Tries – C.Browning 2, J.Slipper, C.Neville
Pen – A.Goromaru 2 , J.McIntyre
Con – A.Goromaru 2, J.McIntyre
Tries – D.Carpenter 2, L.Moli
Pen – T.Pisi
Con – T.Pisi 2
Attendance : 19073
Referee: Will Houston
Assistant Ref 1:Andrew Lees
Assistant Ref 2:Nic Berry
TMO : Damien Mitchelmore
1. James Slipper (C) , 2. Andrew Ready , 3. Greg Holmes , 4. Cadeyrn Neville , 5. Rob Simmons , 6. Hendrik Tui , 7. Liam Gill , 8. Curtis Browning , 9. Nick Frisby , 10. Jake McIntyre , 11. Eto Nabuli , 12. Anthony Fainga’a , 13. Samu Kerevi, 14. Chris Feauai-Sautia , 15. Ayumu Goromaru
Replacements 16. Matt Mafi , 17. Sef Fa’agase , 18. Sam Talakai , 19. Ben Matwijow , 20. Michael Gunn , 21. James Tuttle , 22. Duncan Paia’aua , 23. Campbell Magnay
15 Riaan Viljoen, 14. Akihito Yamada, 13 Derek Carpenter, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa (c) , 11 John Stewart, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9. Atsushi Hiwasa, 8 Ed Quirk, 7 Andrew Durutalo, 6. Liaki Moli, 5. Fa’ Atiga Lemalu, 4. Timothy Bond, 3 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 2. Takeshi Kizu, 1 Masataka Mikami
Replacements: 16.Shota Horie, 17. Keita Inagaki , 18 Takuma Asahara, 19. Hitoshi Ono, 20 Taiyo Ando, 21. Yuki Yatomi, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Mifiposeti Paea