Japan Rugby League One: Round 9 review

Japan Rugby League One: Round 9 review

Division One – Matsuda Rides High in Battle of the Sharpshooters

Brave Blossoms flyhalf Rikiya won the battle of the international tens as Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights edged All Black Richie Mo’unga’s Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo 36-24 in a tight contest at the top of the Japan Rugby League One standings yesterday.

Matsuda kicked 16 points to complement a performance where the Wild Knights out-scored their previously unbeaten rivals four-tries-to-three to continue the recent dominance of the Fuchu-based side.

Missing several key performers, including ex-Japan skipper Michael Leitch, Brave Lupus fought hard, with Mo’unga scoring the opening try of the game amongst his 14 points as the visitors refused to concede, despite
Saitama asserting their authority in the middle stages, where they turned a 10-10 tie into a 29-10 lead.

Brave Lupus overcame the loss of centre Seta Tamanivalu to a yellow card midway through the second half, scoring twice during his absence to close to within five, before a Saitama try by the former Super Rugby second
rower Mark Abbott finally put the contest to bed a minute before fulltime. The victory moved Robbie Deans’s unbeaten Wild Knights five points clear at the head of the standings, although
Todd Blackadder’s Brave Lupus remain their closest challenger, three points ahead of Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath. Sungoliath were too strong for an improving Hanazono Kintetsu Liners in one of Saturday’s other matches, easing to a 34-14 victory despite a try from Wallaby scrumhalf Will Genia having narrowed the scoreline to 22-14, shortly
after halftime.

Suntory’s dominance was aided by two tries from their former Crusaders centre Isaiah Punivai, with Brave Blossoms three-quarter Kotaro Matsushima also on the scoresheet.

Recently returned Japanese test fullback Semisi Masirewa scored his first try of the season for Kintetsu, in what was the 31-year-old’s second appearance of the competition, having made a late start due to an injury sustained against England at the Rugby World Cup. While well beaten, Kintetsu will be confident of achieving their first win in the next round when they face the side below them on the log, Mie Honda Heat.
Kobelco Kobe Steelers moved back into fourth today today, after ending the two-game winning run of Mitsubishi.

Heavy Industries by picking up maximum points from their seven tries during the commanding 43-14 win. The Steelers were led by a 13-point haul from backline director Bryn Gatland, with the ex-Chief from Super Rugby
scoring his fifth try from the last four matches, alongside 13 points, to stay at the top of the individual rankings for point-scoring, eight ahead of Saitama’s Matsuda.

Today’s tally took Gatland’s return to an impressive 122 points, with 69 of those achieved in the last four rounds. The win, Kobe’s fourth on the bounce, allowed former Wallaby coach Dave Rennie’s side to jump above
Yokohama Canon Eagles despite the latter’s comfortable 34-17 win over a faltering Shizuoka Blue Revs on Saturday, which had briefly taken last year’s semi-finalists back into fourth position.

Despite the concession of the 10th try of the season by the competition’s leading individual try-scorer, Blue Revs winger Malo Tuitama, in the second minute, the Eagles overcame the false start and worked their way to a 12-7 halftime lead after replying with two tries from centre Yusuke Kajimura.

Yokohama scored four more in the second half, including the sixth of the campaign by star winger Burua Inoke, to finish the Blue Revs off, condemning Shizuoka to a worrying third defeat from their last four outings.
Having been in the top four two weeks ago, defending champions Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay are also on the slide, falling to a second successive defeat as Steve Hansen’s Toyota Verblitz made amends for last week’s traumatic loss to Kobe in Saturday’s 31-27 win.

Although just four points separated the sides, the margin was deceptive, with the Spears scoring the final two tries, the second in injury time, after Verblitz had made the game safe by shaking off their rivals in the third

Two tries by fullback Taichi Takahashi helped propel Toyota from an 8-7 halftime deficit to a 28-13 lead, with Beauden Barrett’s 80th minute penalty goal, the All Blacks’ fifth successful kick of the game, completing the
victory, despite the concession of the injury time try.

Their fifth win of the campaign re-ignited Verblitz’s semi-final aspirations, moving them one point above Kubota in the overall standings.
While it didn’t alter their 10th position, Ricoh Black Rams Tokyo will be hoping today’s 24-14 win over the bottom-ranked Heat is the start of an uplift, after enduring a barren four-match losing streak which culminated in
last week’s 62-0 mauling by Sungoliath.

The Black Rams established a 24-7 lead at halftime, led by the fifth try of the season from former England backrower Nathan Hughes, but were held scoreless during a grim second period where both sides struggled to
break each other down.

Honda eventually closed the margin to 10 when backrower Kei Toma scored their second try with six minutes remaining, but they were unable to advance any further.

This meant Heat couldn’t claim a losing bonus point, although the try ensured the Black Rams didn’t pick up a bonus point for a three-try winning margin either.

Divisions Two & Three – Sun and Fun by the Sea

The sun shone by the Iwate seaside today, metaphorically at least, as Japan Steel Kamaishi Seawaves broke their ‘duck’ in Division Two, reversing an earlier defeat by beating the visiting Kyushu Electric Power Kyuden Voltex 28-11.

The Seawaves, who had lost 20-11 against Voltex during their earlier meeting in Tokyo, overcame the concession of the first try of the game to take a 13-8 advantage into halftime following two tries by their 32-year-old New-Zealand-born backrower, Sam Henwood.

A try by flyhalf Ryoma Nakamura three minutes after play resumed extended the lead to 10, and while Voltex edged closer with a penalty goal, the Seawaves were not to be denied, signing off on their first win of the seasonwhen veteran midfield back Jamie Henry scored the home side’s fourth try, two minutes before the end.

Although not enough to lift Kamaishi off the bottom, the win was a major confidence booster for the remainder of the Seawaves’ campaign, and they are now just one log point behind the Voltex with a game in hand.

Red Hurricanes Osaka are just two above the Seawaves after crashing to a 60-15 loss to NEC Green Rockets Tokatsu; their sixth consecutive defeat after they had opened the season with two narrow wins.

The home side was always in control after building up a 24-10 halftime lead, and while a try immediately after the resumption by the former Blues backrower Blake Gibson briefly gave the Red Hurricanes hope, the ex-Super Rugby man’s score proved to be his team’s last, as the Green Rockets blasted away with the game, running in a further six tries.

The nine-try-to-three victory means Wayne Pivac’s men are hot on the heels of the section leaders, Urayasu D-Rocks, and Toyota Industries Shuttles Aichi, who play each other in next weekend’s only match in the division.

Saturday’s matches in Division Three saw Hino Red Dolphins outlast the Kurita Water Gush Akishima side coached by ex-Wallaby backrower Wycliff Palu, with the home side falling away in the last 30 minutes in Tokyo after their third try of the game had closed the gap to three, trailing 24-21.

Two tries by centre Sora Ouchi helped the competition leaders put space between themselves and Kurita, with hooker Towa Taniguchi scoring once in each half, as part of the eight tries Hino finished with from the
comprehensive 52-21 win.

It was the fifth time from their seven wins that the Red Dolphins have collected a try-scoring bonus point, while flyhalf Simon Hickie kicked 12 points to extend his lead over his Shimizu Corporation Koto Blue Sharks’
counterpart Conrad van Wyk on the individual point’s standings.

The Blue Sharks were made to work hard by the Red Regulions for their fifth win of the season, after the home side fought back from a 19-7 deficit to go ahead by two, before a penalty goal by van Wyk reclaimed the lead forthe final time.

While ultimately in a losing cause, Chugoku hooker Kentaro Iwanaga at least had the consolation of scoring two tries for the second week running, with just three players in the division having scored more than his five, to this stage of the season.

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