Australian franchises are off to a mixed start as they come to terms with scorching conditions at the inaugural Brisbane Global Rugby Tens.
The Melbourne Rebels scored an upset win, the Queensland Reds drew while the NSW Waratahs face a must-win clash against the Chiefs later on Saturday to stay alive in the tournament.
Despite a forecast high of 36 degrees celsius, a reasonable crowd was on hand at Suncorp Stadium and made the most of the available shade as they took in the first round of matches.
All seemed to strike an ideal balance between the free-flowing nature of rugby sevens and the structure of the 15-a-side game.
The Reds, who had wildcard Chris Latham and NRL recruit Lachlan Maranta withdraw because of injury on Saturday morning, showed some flashy signs in their first outing of the pre-season but were held to a 17-17 draw against the Blues.
It marked Samu Kerevi’s first minutes since his season-ending ankle injury last year, and the Wallaby centre got his name on the scoresheet after scooping up an overblown lineout throw and running 30m to cross the line.
The day began with a pair of surprise results as the Rebels won 19-5 against the Chiefs and Japan’s Panasonic Wild Knights beat the Waratahs 15-5 in Pool A.
Tom English, Jordan Uelese and Wallaby Reece Hodge crossed for the Rebels, the latter’s try coming right on full-time to seal the come-from-behind result.
Temperatures in Japan were below zero when they left on Tuesday but the Wild Knights showed no struggles in adapting to the heat, with former Brisbane Broncos star Berrick Barnes relishing his return to Suncorp against one of his old Super Rugby sides.
Barnes converted a second-half penalty and set up Kentaro Kodama, who ran about half the field to complete a sensational runaway try.
“It’s huge for us. We took a pretty young squad over here, a lot of guys are playing their first game. I’m really proud,” Barnes said.
“Our summers up there are as hot as this so mentally it puts us in good stead but physically, I’m buggered.”
The Western Force and Brumbies, meanwhile, are the only teams who have to play three times on Saturday but both suffered first-up defeats.
The Brumbies lost 14-7 to the Highlanders and the Western Force were beaten 14-10 by South Africa’s Blue Bulls.