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Quade Cooper off to winless start in Japan Rugby League One 2022

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)

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Wallabies star Quade Cooper and the Hanazono Kintetsu Liners failed to get their 2022 Japan Rugby League One campaign off to a victorious start after they were beaten by the Sagamihara Mitsubishi Dynaboars on Monday.

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In the final match of the new competition’s opening round, Kintetsu were outplayed by Mitsubishi in a 25-14 defeat at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo.

This was in spite of the fact the Liners boasted an all-star halves combo comprised of Cooper and his long-time teammate Will Genia, although the Dynaboars weren’t short of firepower themselves.

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The hosts had two-time World Cup-winning All Blacks first-five Colin Slade starting at No 10, as well as ex-All Blacks lock Jackson Hemopo on the bench.

That pair headlined a slew of familiar Kiwi faces in the Dynaboars match day squad, including former North Harbour midfielders Matt Vaega and Michael Little, as well as ex-Otago No 8 Dylan Nel, who was named to make his Mitsubishi debut.

However, it was a little-known New Zealander in the form of Ben Paltridge who got the match off to a flyer when he scored an early contender for try of the season with an acrobatic dive to dot down in the right-hand corner after just two minutes.

That was one of two tries scored by Paltridge, the 29-year-old wing making his Mitsubishi debut after having previously played for the Kurita Water Gush.

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His second try proved to be the only scoring act of the second half when he capped off a simple catch-and-pass sequence deep inside Kintetsu’s half to cross the tryline untouched.

Prior to that, Mitsubishi could have had another try to their name when Little, who came into the match as a replacement for Vaega, appeared to have burst through five defenders to score what would have been an impressive try.

It wasn’t to be, though, as the diminutive midfielder’s effort was ruled out after a check with the television match official revealed he committed double movement.

Mitsubishi’s only other try came to hooker Yoshimatsu Yasue, who was named to start ahead of star recruit Ash Dixon and showed why when he opportunistically bolted through the middle of an unguarded ruck to score from close range.

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Kintetsu responded twice before half-time, with their first try scored by Genia on the back of some stellar counter-attacking work by Cooper and wing Tatsumo Nanto following an inaccurate touch-finder from Slade.

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Their second try was the result of a well-worked lineout move near the end of the first half, as some deft line-running by blindside flanker Tevita Tupou sucked in the Dynaboars defenders to allow Nanto to stroll through a gap and shorten the deficit.

The 20-14 half-time scoreline was as close as Kintetsu got to victory, though, as Mitsubishi eventually took the spoilers to move to second-place behind the Hino Red Dolphins on the Division 2 standings.

The Liners, meanwhile, lie in fourth-place, but will have the chance to move into a promotion-relegation play-off spot when they face the Honda Heat in Osaka in a fortnight’s time.

The Dynaboars will also have next week off before returning to host Skyactivs Hiroshima at Sagamihara Gion Stadium in Minami-Ku on January 22.

Sagamihara Mitsubishi Dynaboars 25 (Tries to Ben Paltridge (2) and Yoshimatsu Yasue; 2 conversions and 2 penalty goals to Colin Slade)

Hanazono Kintetsu Liners 14 (Tries to Will Genia and Tatsumo Nanto; 2 conversions to Quade Cooper)

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