Reds edge plucky Sunwolves
Cape Town - The Sunwolves were in the contest for most of the 80 minutes, but in the end they fell just short as they were beaten 35-25 by the Reds in Brisbane in Saturday's opening Super Rugby fixture.
Four tries were scored by the outfit from Queensland as Curtis Browning (2), James Slipper and Cadeyrn Neville got themselves on the board.
The Sunwolves replied through Derek Carpenter (2) and Liaki Moli in a game they could well have won in another step in the right direction.
For the Reds this is an ideal tonic as they move into their bye week, with this only their third victory of the Super Rugby season thus far.
The Reds were boosted by the late return of centre Samu Kerevi, who took the place of Campbell Magnay in the starting XV, but it was their pack that dominated the first quarter as they created all of their points. The scrum in particular was a major positive for the home side.
Ayumu Goromaru got them moving with a penalty on five minutes before opposing kicker, Sunwolves pivot Tusi Pisi, missed his first shot.
Then ten minutes later the scrum dominance led to a penalty, which was booted into the corner and from the resulting line-out, number eight Browning crashed over with Goromaru converting for 10-0. The Reds had their tails up but the Sunwolves were yet to enjoy any decent ball.
When they did the Super Rugby new-boys threatened and nice hands saw centre Carpenter fend before going over to make it 10-7 on 22 minutes.
The Reds though would strike back seven minutes later through another one of their forwards, this time prop Slipper reached out for 17-10.
Credit to the Sunwolves who could well have been tied at the interval but for Chris Feauai-Sautia chasing down Akihito Yamada, who had the try-line at his mercy. The consolation for the visitors was that Hendrik Tui was penalised soon after which allowed Pisi to kick for goal.
At 17-13 the first points of the second-half were always going to be key and they went the way of the Reds, with the driving maul leading to Browning showing his strength with ball in hand again. His peel off the back saw him power over but Goromaru was wayward with the kick.
As they have done all season though, the Sunwolves demonstrated their attacking skills and hit back on 51 minutes with the try of the game. Pisi started it with a wide ball to Yamada before a lovely reverse pass from the fly-half set up Carpenter for his double to make it 22-20.
Fortunately for the Reds they were gifted three points soon after for an obstruction that allowed Goromaru to take them 25-20 clear from 40 metres.
This game still had plenty left in it though and tries would come for both teams, with first Moli finishing off wide on the right to level things up before the Reds responded, their try coming thanks to Nick Frisby setting up lock Neville for a run-in from 30 metres for 32-25.
The Reds then showed calmness to see out the game and with Goromaru off the field with a shoulder injury, fly-half Jake McIntyre stepped up to add to his earlier conversion with a simple penalty goal that gave them a ten-point cushion which they held on to until the end.
Reds 35 (17)
Tries: Curtis Browning (2), James Slipper, Cadeyrn Neville
Conversions: Ayumu Goromaru (2), Jake McIntyre
Penalties: Goromaru (2), McIntyre
Sunwolves 25 (13)
Tries: Derek Carpenter (2), Liaki Moli
Conversions: Tusi Pisi (2)
Penalties: Pisi (2)