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21:02 11 February 2017

Rugby: Panasonic upset 2 Australian sides on 1st day of Brisbane 10s

BRISBANE, Feb. 11, Kyodo

Panasonic Wild Knights laid down a marker Saturday at the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens as they finished the first day with two wins over Australian Super Rugby sides.

Robbie Deans' team beat the Waratahs 15-5 in their opening game in Pool A 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.

Each team plays three pool-stage games. Teams from the four-team Pools A and B play all others in their groups. The teams from Pools C and D do the same, plus one team from the other three-team group.

The top two sides from each pool advance to the quarterfinals, with points difference being the decider if sides are level on points.

The only other sides to finish the first day with two wins were Australia's Brumbies and New Zealand's Crusaders and Highlanders.

The Brumbies, who along with compatriots the Western Force were the only teams forced to play three games on a day when temperatures in Brisbane topped 38 C, rebounded from a 14-7 loss to the Highlanders to beat French powerhouse Toulon, featuring Japan international Ayumu Goromaru, 10-0 and the Bulls from South Africa 7-5 to lead Pool C.

The Highlanders are second, but with a game in hand after they followed up their win over the Brumbies with a 13-5 defeat of fellow Kiwi side the Hurricanes in a battle between the last two Super Rugby champions.

Meanwhile, the Crusaders, for whom former Honda Heat wing Digby Ioane impressed, downed Samoa, coached by former Suntory Sungoliath favorite Alama Ieremia, 12-7 and the host Reds 28-0 to top Pool B.

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.

In their first game, a try from Gunter -- the youngest player to play 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 naughty chair.

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.

==Kyodo

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