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Former Australia U20s star shines for Wild Knights in Japan

Dylan Riley (C) of Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights is tackled by Kazuhiro Taniguchi (L) of Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay during the League One match between Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights and Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay at Kumagaya Sports & Culture Park Rugby Stadium on March 04, 2023 in Kumagaya, Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Toru Hanai/Getty Images)

Former Australian Under-20 representative Dylan Riley picked up his second try of the Japan Rugby League One season as the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights overran arch-rivals Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath 41-29 to remain on top of the championship table.


The Gold Coast-schooled Riley, who made his international debut for Japan last year, finished as the joint leading try-scorer in the maiden edition of the league, but had been held scoreless this season until to two weeks ago when the Wild Knights beat Kobelco Kobe Steelers.

The 25-year-old scored from his own side of halfway yesterday off an intercept, with the try part of a bewildering six-minute blitz which saw Saitama, who had trailed 17-3 at halftime, turn a 24-10 deficit into a 31-24 advantage, inflicting a fatal psychological blow on their stunned opponents in the process.

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By the time Suntory scored again, when utility back Taiga Ozaki crossed in injury time, the Wild Knights had scored 31 points consecutiv ely against the side they beat in each of the last two finals.

Riley’s try was preceded by one off a rolling maul from the Japan national team’s ex-Highlanders prop Craig Miller, while it was followed by the in-form fullback Takuya Yamasawa’s fourth try of the last three weeks, as the Robbie Deans-coached Wild Knights extended their unbeaten run to 44 matches.

Their victims of last weekend, Bernard Foley’s Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay, consolidated their hold on second on the standings by beating Shizuoka Blue Revs 40-27.

After being held scoreless by the Wild Knights, Springbok hooker Malcolm Marx scored the 15th try from 15 club appearances during his career in Japan, while Foley now has a league-leading 138 points for the season.


The Yokohama Canon Eagles made the most of Suntory’s defeat to move up to third after a 41-21 win over Matt Toomua’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Sagamihara Dynaboars but they were made to work hard after a try from the Wallab y flyhalf helped the home side build up a 21-5 halftime lead.

It wasn’t enough as the Eagles, led by star Springbok halfback Faf de Klerk, stormed home in the second period, blanking Sagamihara 36-0 to claim an important victory.

Sunday’s other match saw the Todd Blackadder-coached Toshiba Brave Lupus stay fifth following a courageous effort against NEC Green Rockets Tokatsu, after playing 71 minutes a player down when prop Latu Taufa was sent off.

Reduced to 13 at one point when halfback Jack Stratton was yellow-carded, Brave Lupus fell behind 20-18 shortly after halftime but roared back, scoring the final 31 points of the game to claim a memorable win.


Former Brumbies and Waratahs winger Peter Hewat’s Ricoh Black Rams recorded their third win on end to move up to sixth on the points table after beating Kobelco Kobe Steelers 41-26, with the ex-Queensland fullback Matt McGahan contributing 16 points to close to within 18 points of Foley’s season total.

Will Genia’s Hanazono Kintetsu Liners suffered their 11th defeat of the season despite a brave effort against Steve Hansen’s Toyota Verblitz, with the former Hurricanes flyhalf Jackson Garden Bachop one of their three try-scorers in a 62-24 loss.


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