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Reds stun fellow strugglers Sunwolves in late turnaround

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Tokyo (AFP)

Hamish Stewart nailed a last-minute penalty as the Queensland Reds produced a superb comeback to beat Japan's Sunwolves 34-31 on Saturday and post their first win of the season.

The Australians trailed 21-5 at half-time but their bench provided an instant impact after the break for the visitors in Tokyo, scoring four tries in 16 minutes -- two by Brandon Paenga-Amosa -- in an astonishing turnaround.

"We didn't start too well but the win shows the belief and character of this team," said Reds centre Samu Kerevi.

"It was a game of two halves -- but we can't be starting games like that. We need to be more clinical."

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 competition organisers set to meet this week to discuss the tournament'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 Sunwolves in the driving seat, while Parker's left boot paced the hosts with 11 points.

But the game swung on three quickfire 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 Waikato 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.

"It was a bit of a heart-breaker," said Sunwolves centre Jason Emery.

"But we can take lessons from that and it's definitely something we can use as a weapon in our next games."

Before the game, the teams observed a minute's silence for the victims of Friday's gun attacks on two New Zealand mosques, which left 49 people dead and dozens more injured.

"First and foremost our prayers and love go to the people of Christchurch," said Kerevi.

"It's been an emotional couple of days and our hearts go out to those people and families who have lost so much."

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