The Queensland Reds have retained the Saitama-Queensland Shield with a narrow 31-29 victory over the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights at Ballymore Stadium.
In what was the first capped Queensland match at Ballymore since 2010, the Reds held out a fast-finishing Wild Knights side to make it two-from-two against their Japanese partners.
11 players – Max Craig, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Cormac Daly, John Bryant, Harry McLaughlin-Phillips, Tim Ryan, Moli Sooaemalagi, Massimo de Lutiis, Chris Minimbi, Lachlan Connors, Shaun Anderson – made their Queensland debuts in the victory, with McLaughlin-Phillips earning player of the match honours in an assured performance at flyhalf.
Lawson Creighton became the 126th man to captain Queensland as the Reds held out a second-half comeback from their Japanese counterparts after leading 21-5 at the 30-minute mark.
Japanese international Ryuji Noguchi opened the scoring with an intercept try in the 5th minute, giving the visitors a 5-nil lead early.
Mac Grealy struck back for the Reds soon after, McLaughlin-Phillips breaking through the defence from 60-minutes out before linking with Ryan who found a steaming Grealy on his outside. Creighton converted to give the Reds a 7-5 lead in the 12th minute.
Josh Flook busted through from close range for Queensland’s second try in the 21st minute, Creighton converting to open up a 14-5 lead, the Reds beginning to dominate the game at Ballymore.
Ryan had his first try in a Queensland jersey in the 27th minute, the speedster finishing in the right-hand corner courtesy of a Flook cut-out ball.
Wild Knights hooker Kazuma Shimane had his sides’ second off the back of a strong rolling maul, Takuya Yamasawa converting to bring the score to 21-12 at the half-time break.
After dominating field position and possession in the opening exchanges of the second half, the tourists struck first in the second stanza with a penalty in the 51st minute.
Momentum stayed with the Wild Knights, pressure eventually turning into points when Vince Aso crashed over the line. Yamasawa’s second conversion of the afternoon put the visitors into a 22-21 lead with 20-minutes to play.
Queensland responded almost instantly, Creighton sending a charging Harry Wilson into a gap before the number-eight deftly grubber kicked through to a chasing Louis Werchon, who regathered to score in the left-hand corner.
A powerful run and offload by debutant Connors propelled Queensland to their fifth try, the Bond University backrower puncturing the defence before offloading to Wilson who linked with Seru Uru and onto Creighton. The captain found Grealy with a neat flick pass, the winger diving over from short range for his second to open up a 31-22 lead for the Reds.
The visitors weren’t done with, reserve hooker Yuji Shimogama peeling off the back of a rolling maul to score his side’s third try. Yamasawa converted to bring the Wild Knights within two-points at 31-29 with three-minutes to play.
With the 80-minutes finished, the Wild Knights had the opportunity to snatch a late victory with a scrum seven-metres off the Reds’ line, but the power of Massimo de Lutiis, George Blake and Moli Sooaemalagi proved too strong, the Reds holding on for a memorable two-point victory at the spiritual home of Queensland Rugby.
Secure your 2024 Reds membership via https://bit.ly/46FR3BF.