The Queensland Reds have claimed the inaugural Queensland-Saitama Shield, running out 55-30 winners over the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium.
In what was the first game between the clubs since 1991, eight players made their Queensland debut – Connor Anderson (Wests), Ben Navosailagi (Wests), Wilson Blyth (Bond University), Phransis Sula-Siaosi (Souths), Louis Werchon (Brothers), Floyd Aubrey (GPS), Taine Roiri (Easts) and Joey Fittock (Bond University) – in a capped Queensland fixture.
Matt Faessler, Harry Wilson, Kalani Thomas and Suliasi Vunivalu scored doubles for the Reds in a comprehensive display by the visitors, with the victory seeing the side go unbeaten on their two-game tour of Japan.
Queensland and Saitama share a sister-state relationship, with the Wild Knights and Reds coming together to form an innovative partnership in 2020.
Queensland opened the scoring early, winger Vunivalu snatching a loose pass and racing 60-metres to score. Isaac Henry made no mistake with the conversion to give the visitors a 7-nil lead.
Fellow Wallaby Wilson soon had his side’s second, the number-eight finding the line courtesy of a Vunivalu break and Thomas assist. Henry added his second conversion of the night to extend Queensland’s advantage to 14-nil by the seventh-minute.
The Wild Knights responded with their first points of the clash in the 10th minute, flyhalf Kyohei Yamazawa slotting a penalty-goal.
Faessler crashed over off the back of a rolling-maul for Queensland’s third soon after, before Yamazawa’s second penalty brought the scores to 21-6 in the 20th minute.
A pair of rolling-mauls gave Queensland their next two tries, Sam Wallis and Faessler the beneficiaries.
Thomas dove over to score from close range twice in the final 10 minutes of the opening-half, Henry adding his fourth and fifth conversions to extend the Queensland lead to 45-6 at the break.
A flying Akira Takeyama collected an inch-perfect Wild Knights attacking kick to score the hosts first five-pointer of the night in the 54th minute, cutting the deficit to 45-11.
Vunivalu proved too strong for his opposing winger in the 60th minute, beating him one-on-one to cross for his second try of the night, before Yamazawa added to his personal points tally with his team’s second try. The flyhalf converted his own five-pointer, bringing the scores to 50-18 with 13-minutes to play.
Wilson became the fourth Queenslander to score a double in the 72nd minute, the number-eight juggling a cross-field Lawson Creighton kick and regathering to barge his way over for a try.
Yamazawa made it a double himself with a superb solo chip-and-chase effort, once again converting his own try to make the scores 55-25 with three-minutes to play.
Takeyama scored his second late, bringing the final score to 55-30 at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium.