TOKYO (AFP) - The Brumbies narrowly beat Japan's Sunwolves 32-25 in their Super Rugby season opener on Saturday (Feb 24), coming back from behind to seal a thrilling contest.
Flyhalf Christian Lealiifano slotted the opening penalty for the Brumbies in their early skirmish at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium. But the Sunwolves quickly took back the lead as Hosea Saumaki bagged a try and Ryoto Nakamura booted the conversion, wowing the local crowd in fine weather.
The Japanese side extended the lead as Samoa-born centre Timothy Lafaele scored a try under the post and Hayden Parker converted the try.
The Brumbies launched a furious counterattack as their season's first try was smashed by Lachlan McCaffrey in the corner. But Saumaki scored his second try for the Sunwolves with Nakamura missing the conversion this time.
The Brumbies narrowed the gap as centre Kyle Godwin crossed the line with Lealiifano nailing the conversion just before half-time.
The Brumbies made a swoop at the beginning of the second half and snatched the lead as centre Tevita Kuridrani scored a try with Lealiifano kicking the conversion.
The Sunwolves fought back as Parker kicked a penalty, but flanker Thomas Banks widened the Brumbies' lead with a try in the corner, thwarting the Japanese side's counterstroke.
The Brumbies will clash with the Reds on March 2 in Australia while the Sunwolves will fight the Rebels on March 3 in Tokyo.
The Sunwolves are playing in the five-team Australian conference this season, replacing Western Force who were controversially dumped out of the competition as the format downsized.
The Sunwolves had another horror season last year in the southern hemisphere's elite club competition, winning just two games.
They won only one of 15 games the year before, in a chastening debut season.
Jamie Joseph, new coach of Sunwolves, who also coaches Japan's national team, has vowed to target a top-five finish this season.