Japan Rugby League One 2023-24 Round Eight Review

Japan Rugby League One 2023-24 Round Eight Review

Division One – Four Star Savea Sinks Toyota

Reigning World Rugby Player of the Year Ardie Savea showed his class, scoring four tries as former Wallaby coach Dave Rennie enjoyed his finest moment in Japan after Kobelco Kobe Steelers crushed Toyota Verblitz 57-22 in Osaka.
The 30-year-old All Black backrower, who had scored three tries from seven appearances in Japan Rugby League One prior to today, scored two tries in each half as Kobe ran amok in a one-sided second half, pulling away from a 15-12 halftime lead to score emphatically.
Ex-Super Rugby flyhalf Bryn Gatland also played a starring role, complementing Savea’s effort with a 27-point haul, which included two tries, to lift the 28-year-old to the top of the individual point standings for the season at its halfway stage.
The son of Wales coach Warren Gatland became the competition’s first centurion, advancing his tally to 109 points, 11 clear of the incumbent Brave Blossoms flyhalf Rikiya Matsuda (99), with All Black flyhalf Richie Mo’unga third on 89.
The disastrous second 40-minutes, where Steve Hansen’s men conceded points at a rate of more than a point a minute, saw Verblitz tumble from fifth to seventh on the point’s table, while also seeing flyhalf Beauden Barrett and scrumhalf Aaron Smith concede the bragging rights to their All Black teammates Savea, Ngane Laumape and Brodie Retallick in the Kobe line-up.
Today’s victory, achieved with a bonus point by scoring eight tries, propelled Rennie’s side back into the top four after the Steelers had fallen off the pace while suffering consecutive defeats against Toshiba Brave Lupus, Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath and Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay.

The latter lost their place among the semi-final positions after being upset 34-28 by a resurgent Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Sagamihara Dynaboars, who scored the match-sealing try by winger Ben Paltridge with seven minutes remaining after the two sides had traded blows throughout an even contest where the lead changed hands four times.
The 31-year-old Paltridge, who was born in Thailand but educated in New Zealand, scored two tries for the second week in a row, after bagging a double during last week’s win over Shizuoka Blue Revs.
The Dynaboars’ fourth win of the campaign lifted them above Shizuoka Blue Revs into eighth while the defending champions, who had finally worked their way up to fourth on the table after a false start to the season, promptly dropped out of the top four again, falling back to sixth.
Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights and Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo set up the much-awaited top-of-the-table clash between the league’s two unbeaten sides next week with comfortable wins yesterday.
Springbok second-rower Lood de Jager led the way by scoring two tries as the Wild Knights easily disposed of Blue Revs 45-19 at Yamaha Stadium.
Shizuoka got off to a great start when inform winger Malo Tuitama scored the sixth and seventh tries of his last three games, but their 12-7 lead after 25 minutes was overhauled before halftime.
De Jager’s first try tied the scores and was added to by scrumhalf Taiki Koyama and centre Dylan Riley, the latter’s eighth for the season, to push the visitors out to a 26-12 advantage, which was extended in the second period to ensure they headed back to Saitama with a maximum point return from the trip.
Quade Cooper scored his first try of the campaign, but it wasn’t enough for Hanazono Kintetsu Liners to claim their first win of the season as Brave Lupus grabbed 19 points in the final 11 minutes to finally shrug off the Wallaby flyhalf’s gallant side.
Kintetsu had battled back from a nine-point halftime deficit to lead by one before three late tries saw Toshiba home 50-32.
Two of those were scored by the 27-year-old Brave Lupus winger Masaki Hamada, whose 24-year-old brother Mamoru, the Toshiba hooker, scored twice in the first half.
All Black centre Seta Tamanivalu also crossed the line twice for Brave Lupus, while exciting Brave Blossoms second-rower Warner Dearns and winger Taiki Matsunobu got the other tries. Kintetsu back-rower Jose Seru was the fourth of the game’s multiple try-scorers.

It rained tries at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium on Saturday as Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath ran in nine to swamp Ricoh Black Rams Tokyo 62-0.
Suntory captain Kosuke Horikoshi grabbed himself a hattrick, lifting the hooker’s tally for the season to eight, just one behind the league leading Tuitama.
Brave Blossoms three-quarter Kotaro Matsushima scored twice as the maximum points cemented Sungoliath’s position in third on the competition ladder, while leaving the Black Rams languishing in the relegation zone, nine points behind ninth-placed Shizuoka.
Yokohama Canon Eagles jumped two places to fifth after a comfortable 50-21 win on Friday night, despite a second half rally from Mie Honda Heat, who scored three tries after having trailed 26-0 at halftime.
Former Super Rugby second-rower Max Douglas, who once appeared for NSW Waratahs, scored two of the Eagles’ seven tries.

Divisions Two & Three – D-Rocks ‘Derby’ Double Act

Urayasu D-Rocks claimed their second victory of the ‘NTT derby’ between the two clubs affiliated with Japan Rugby League One’s naming sponsor, overpowering Red Hurricanes Osaka 31-12 today to maintain their position at the head of the Division Two standings.
Despite being held scoreless in the second half, which the home side ‘won’ 5-0, the damage had already been done, with D-Rocks having scored five tries in a blistering opening period which saw them make their way to the halftime break leading by 26 points.
The section’s playing through champions outscored their rivals five-tries-to-two, picking up a try-scoring bonus point to extend their lead at the top of the table.
Toyota Industries Shuttles Aichi, who had skipper James Gaskill yellow carded in the first half for a professional foul, came from behind to beat Kyushu Electric Power Kyuden Voltex 15-10 yesterday, with flyhalf Freddie Burns
scoring 10 of the victor’s points, including a first half try.
The former England international is the leading individual point-scorer in the division on 77, 22 points clear of the Green Rockets’ Namibian international Tiaan Swanepoel.
Although victorious, it was the second successive win against lower ranked opposition where the Shuttles failed to achieve a try-scoring bonus point, slipping them a further point below D-Rocks on the standings.

NEC Green Rockets Tokatsu were denied the opportunity to claim a bonus point victory from their scheduled outing against winless Japan Steel Kamaishi Seawaves after the match was cancelled.
Hino continues to power on in Division Three with the unbeaten Red Dolphins untroubled in their 62-29 win over a battling Chugoku Electric Power Red Regulions.
Despite two first half tries from the Australian veteran Ed Quirk, the league’s bottom side trailed 35-15 at halftime, and eventually fell by 33, despite finishing with four tries.
The sections two leading point-scorers, Hino’s Simon Hickie and Chugoku’s Hayato Miyazaki, kept their tallies ticking over, with Hickie bagging a try among his 23 points to go to the top of the rankings with 77, while Miyazaki added another nine to take his number to 75.
The Chugoku man is nine ahead of the South African Conrad van Wyk, who converted five of Shimizu Corporation Koto Blue Sharks’ six tries as they downed Mazda SkyActivs Hiroshima 40-27 to draw six points clear of their rivals on the point’s table.
The Blue Sharks took command in the first half racing to a 26-5 lead, and the result was never in doubt, despite the home side scoring the final two tries to finish with five for the game and close the margin to 13.
Veteran New Zealand flyhalf Orbyn Leger and South African centre John Ben Kotz both scored twice for the winners.

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