Seiya Ozaki scored a hat-trick of tries Sunday as Tokyo Sungoliath overwhelmed reigning champions Kubota Spears 52-26 in the opening round of the Japan Rugby League One season.

New Zealand captain Sam Cane and South Africa speedster Cheslin Kolbe made their Japanese club debuts for Sungoliath, but it was home-grown winger Ozaki who stole the show at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.

With Japan head coaching candidate Eddie Jones watching in his role as a Sungoliath adviser, Ozaki ran in three first-half tries to help his team take a 35-7 lead into the break.

Tokyo Sungoliath's Seiya Ozaki (bottom) scores a try during the first half of a League One match against Kubota Spears at Tokyo's Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground on Dec. 10, 2023. (Kyodo)

He scored his first in the 11th minute to give Sungoliath a 14-0 buffer with Mikiya Takamoto's conversion, then crossed again eight minutes later.

Sungoliath racked up 21 unanswered points before Spears registered their first try through David Bulbring in the 23rd minute.

Ozaki brought up his hat trick late in the half courtesy of a Kotaro Matsushima kick-pass that found him sprinting down the right touchline.

"I'm glad to have scored tries, but winning was the most important thing," Ozaki said. "I focused on my kick chase and positioning when the other team had possession, and I was happy with those areas."

Kolbe displayed his playmaking from fullback when he created space with a dummy before sending Keisuke Moriya over in the corner for a 40-14 advantage early in the second half.

"I think that was a good start for us, and there's a lot of confidence we can take for the rest of the season," said Kolbe, adding he was "just excited" to have played his first game.

Tokyo Sungoliath's Kotaro Matsushima (L) carries the ball during the second half of a League One match against Kubota Spears at Tokyo's Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground on Dec. 10, 2023. (Kyodo)

Spears, whose coach Frans Ludeke is also reportedly a candidate for the vacant Brave Blossoms job, made a stronger showing in the second half but could not fight their way back after conceding such a big early deficit.

"We really gave a lot of broken field, unstructured play, which is exactly what they want, especially with Cheslin playing well and making good decisions, and that really took the game away from us in the first half," Ludeke said.

Spears flyhalf Bernard Foley said early defensive mistakes had prevented the team establishing their own game until too late.

"When you give a quality side too many easy tries, you end up chasing the game," Foley said.

The former Wallabies playmaker was nevertheless positive about Spears' campaign to go back-to-back after winning their first championship last season.

"We're excited. There's a title defense, but there's also new members, so you sort of start again this competition and I think that's what we're establishing now," he said.

In Sunday's other game, Saitama Wild Knights, last season's beaten finalists, ran in eight tries in a 53-12 win over Yokohama Eagles.

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