Rugby: Last-gasp drop-goal edges thriller for Sunwolves

A file photo taken on May 12, 2018, shows Sunwolves' Hayden Parker scores a try during the Round 13 Super Rugby match between the Sunwolves of Japan and the Reds of Australia at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (AFP) - Hayden Parker coolly knocked over a drop-goal after full-time as Japan's Sunwolves edged a thriller against the Western Stormers 26-23 to seal their first ever back-to-back wins in Super Rugby on Saturday (May 19).

The Sunwolves had been headed for defeat just minutes earlier, after Sarel Marais's long-range penalty, but a Parker penalty levelled it before his sublime drop-goal brought the Hong Kong crowd to its feet.

The Tokyo-based team, who are co-based in Singapore, have endured some torrid defeats since entering the competition in 2016, but they have now won twice in a row for the first time after last week's 63-28 rout of the Queensland Reds.

The Sunwolves' fifth victory was also their first away from Tokyo - and it extinguished the faint play-off hopes of the Stormers, who are languishing at the foot of the South African conference.

In sweltering conditions for Hong Kong's first Super Rugby game, the Stormers were quickly into the lead when wing Dillyn Leyds gathered a kick in his own half and weaved down the right flank to score in the corner.

Johannes Engelbrecht's intercept try widened the advantage before Sunwolves fly-half Parker hit back with a breakaway score for 12-7.

A try from Stormers fullback Marais and a Parker penalty left the visitors 17-10 ahead at the break but lock Grant Hattingh levelled it at 17-17 after a slick move 17 minutes into the second half.

Parker stroked the Sunwolves into the lead for the first time with a coolly struck penalty on 65 minutes, before Marais's kick with 10 minutes to go locked it up at 20-20.

With six minutes left, Marais belted one over from behind the halfway line to leave the Sunwolves staring at a cruel defeat - before Parker's 80th-minute penalty and post-siren drop goal.

The New Zealand fly-half ended with 21 points as the Sunwolves, who feature many of Japan's expected 2019 World Cup squad, registered their first-ever victory against the Stormers.

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