Japan Rugby League One 2023-24 Round Three Review

Japan Rugby League One 2023-24 Round Three Review

Division One – Four Try Frizell Melts Steelers

All Black backrower Shannon Frizell was the toast of Fuchu after scoring four tries in leading Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo to a successful Christmas Eve heist at the home of Kobelco Kobe Steelers.
Brave Lupus won an entertaining contest 46-39 at Noevir Stadium, with the powerful 29-year-old scoring twice in each half to hand former Wallaby coach Dave Rennie his first defeat since he moved to Japan.
Frizell’s former All Black teammate Richie Mo’unga was also a key contributor on the scorecard, contributing 16 points off the boot, which included converting five of Toshiba’s six tries.
Todd Blackadder’s men led for most of the game, and while the home side still had two minutes remaining when scrumhalf Atsushi Hiwasa scored the Steeler’s fifth try, Brave Lupus held their nerve, maintaining the seven-point advantage until the finish.
The win means Toshiba heads into the New Year’s break one point behind the table-leading Saitama Panasonic
Wild Knights, with Kobe dropping to fourth.
The Wild Knights and Brave Lupus are the only sides who remain undefeated after Kobe and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Sagamihara Dynaboars were both beaten for the first time.
Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath are third after coasting to a 34-16 victory at Suzuka, despite home side Mie Honda Heat putting up a vastly improved performance after having conceded 155 points in their first two matches on return to Division One.
Sungoliath jumped to a 17-0 advantage in the opening half an hour and pushed out to 27-6 in the 57th minute after Brave Blossoms star Kotaro Matsushima scored the fifth of their six tries.
Kieran Crowley’s side fought back with two tries before the end, but Sungoliath’s advantage was too great to be run down.

After losing just one game during the entirety of last season, Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay have lost two of their first three, after being felled by an 83rd minute try in their 23-19 loss to Shizuoka Blue Revs.
The Blue Revs, who had flyhalf Kenta Iemura to thank after his 83rd minute try, led 16-7 at halftime but looked like they might have been foiled after Kubota’s wonderkid from their championship-winning campaign, 17-try winger Haruto Kida, scored his second of this term to close the gap, before centre Sione Teaupa scored with six minutes to play to edge Kubota ahead by three.
Having introduced some heavy artillery for their club debuts, in the form of the seasoned internationals, Wales fullback Liam Williams and New Zealand hooker Dane Coles, the Spears looked to have done enough, before
Iemura’s late intervention got Shizuoka home.
The converted try was their only points of the second period, but it was enough to land the Blue Revs their first win of the season.

Toyota Find the Right Gear

Saturday saw Toyota Verblitz inflict a first defeat on Sagamihara, winning a scoring bonanza 54-40, with the two sides sharing 14 tries.
Despite the concession of an early try to the Dynaboars’ ex-All Black backrower Jackson Hemopo, Verblitz were in charge for most of the match, leading 31-21 at halftime and keeping Mitsubishi at arms-length throughout.
Former Wallaby centre Curtis Rona scored for the third week in a row, this time contributing two tries, while Hemopo scored a second, but Mitsubishi’s hopes had gone long before two tries in the final 10 minutes closed the margin of defeat.
Brave Blossoms skipper Kazuki Himeno was among the try-scorers for the winners as was Verblitz winger Taichi Takahasi, who had scored four tries for the Barbarians at Bristol during the off-season.
All Black flyhalf Beauden Barrett converted all but one of Toyota’s eight tries.
Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights were never threatened during a comfortable 44-17 win over the still winless Ricoh Black Rams Tokyo at Kumagaya.
The home side scored four first half tries as they forged ahead 25-3 at halftime, and despite the concession of two in the second half, still finished with a seven-try-to-two advantage.

Yokohama Canon Eagles had put 71 points on Hanazono Kintetsu Liners last season, and they scored 66 this time, but the eventual 40-point winning margin must have seemed fanciful after the visitors were awarded a penalty try straight after halftime which closed the score to 26-19.
Six tries later, it finished 66-26, leaving Kintetsu to contemplate back-to-back second half collapses after a competitive first 40 minutes.
Kintetsu held Saitama to an eight-point halftime advantage a week ago, but still lost 49-0.

Divisions Two & Three – Hurricanes See Red at Aichi

Toyota Industries Shuttles Aichi will start the new year on top of the Division Two table after a crushing 71-12 win over Red Hurricanes Osaka in today’s clash between the last two unbeaten sides in the section.

After opening with two wins, the newly promoted side were given a reality check as the Shuttles romped to a 35-5 halftime lead, and were unrelenting in the second half, adding 36 points in this period to claim the try-scoring bonus point and a three-point advantage over Urayasu D-Rocks on the championship ladder.
Former England international Freddie Burns scored 21 points, which included a try, while centre Joshua Kerevi contributed two of the Shuttles’ 11 tries.
Christmas Eve provided four ‘presents’ for the Kerevi family, with Joshua’s younger brother Samu also scoring twice as the D-Rocks downed a gallant Japan Steel Kamaishi Seawaves 52-22 at Fukushima.
Urayasu raced to a 33-5 halftime lead, briefly reviving thoughts of last year’s visit to northern Honshu where they ran up 92 points, but there is more power in the Seawaves this season and the home fought back by scoring the
first three tries of the second half to close the margin to 11 points.
Any hope of a major upset was buried in the last three minutes when D-Rocks scored three tries, two by Kerevi, to draw clear to a slightly deceptive 30-point winning margin.
NEC Green Rockets returned to the winner’s circle on Saturday, after their loss to the Shuttles in round two, handing Kyuden Voltex their third defeat of the season after a 41-24 win.
The Green Rockets blasted to a 27-5 lead just after halftime, before easing off the pressure, which allowed Voltex to bring some respectability to the scoreline with three late tries, the last of which was scored by their 38-year-old veteran former test winger, Akihito Yamada.

Liam Sopoaga experienced his maiden win in Japan, but the dual international wasn’t on the field to enjoy it, being forced off due to injury after the first 20 minutes against the Chugoku Electric Power Red Regulions.
Shimizu Koto Blue Sharks trailed 13-7 at the time.
Despite the former All Blacks’ absence, two tries from winger Tooru Kanazawa on his League One debut helped the visitors turn the score around, establishing a 24-13 halftime lead, which had been advanced to 34-19 by the final whistle.
Chugoku didn’t help themselves by conceding a yellow card in each half.
The other match in Division Three saw Hino Red Dolphins retain top spot after a comfortable 37-24 win over Kurita Water Gush Akishima, with the home side always in control after establishing a 30-5 lead in the first 32 minutes, which included four tries.
Water Gush, who remain winless, showed spirit in the second period to out-scorer their conquerors 12-7 but the game had already been lost, even though the Red Dolphins finished with 14 men after their well-travelled flyhalf Simon Hickie was yellow carded for a professional foul.
The New Zealander, who joined Red Dolphins this season, has previously played for three teams in Super Rugby, as well as representing Bordeaux in France’s Top 14, and Edinburgh in the now United Rugby Championship.

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