BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – The Panasonic Wild Knights laid down a marker Saturday at the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens, finishing the first day with two wins over Australian Super Rugby sides.
Robbie Deans’ team beat the Waratahs 15-5 in its opening game in Group B at Suncorp Stadium before holding on to down the Rebels 17-12.
The two victories should see the Wild Knights — who play the Chiefs from New Zealand in their final pool game on Sunday morning — into the quarterfinals.
The Wild Knights used a kicking game in attack and some superb tackling in defense to finish the day unbeaten, with Daniel Heenan, Ben Gunter and Akihito Yamada in particular catching the eye.
“It’s a tough competition and a great format and I am very proud of the way the Knights have presented themselves,” Deans said on a day when temperatures in Brisbane topped 38 C.
In their first game, a try from Gunter — the youngest player to appear in a Top League game — and one from Matt Lucas saw the Wild Knights and Waratahs turn around level at 5-5.
But with Berrick Barnes taking charge in the second half, Panasonic scored 10 unanswered points. The Australian-born flyhalf put Kentaro Kodama away with a well-timed pass and then added the conversion and a drop-kicked penalty to seal the win.
In the afternoon game, the Rebels took an early advantage thanks to a try from Jonah Placid.
But Panasonic hit back with tries from Ryu Koliniasi Holani and Yoshikazu Fujita to lead 10-5 at the break.
Jack Cornelsen, who is on trial with the Wild Knights, extended the lead early in the second half following a good interchange with Yamada, before Fujita went from hero to villain when he was, rather harshly, given three minutes in the sin bin.
Ben Meehan crossed the chalk to make it a five-point game, but the Panasonic defense held firm the rest of the way with Heenan’s try-saving tackle on the Rebels’ Japan international Amanaki Lelei Mafi highlighting a superb effort.
“To get a win against the Waratahs, I think we exceeded everyone’s expectations. Then to back it up with that win it just proved that the first one wasn’t a fluke and that a few of our boys can play footy,” Heenan said.