Japan Rugby League One Round 2 Review

Japan Rugby League One Round 2 Review

Toshiba Tops in Fuchu

All Black backrower Shannon Frizell was the toast of Fuchu tonight as his maiden try in Japan Rugby League One

allowed Toshiba Brave Lupus to claim the first instalment of bragging rights in the neighbourhood for the season.

The 29-year-old New Zealander, who joined the club from Super Rugby’s (Otago) Highlanders after the Rugby

World Cup, scored his side’s fourth try to finally take down their traditional rivals, after the boot of rookie Tokyo

Suntory Sungoliath flyhalf Mikiya Takamoto had kept his team in the game.

Playing in just his second match in the grade, after injury had rubbed out one of Suntory’s major off-season

signings, Wales international Gareth Anscombe, the 22-year-old kicked four penalty goals and a conversion, to

keep Sungoliath in touch, despite the concession of four tries to one.

Brave Lupus scored three first half tries to lead 19-13 at the break, with predictable names featuring on the

scoresheet for both sides.

After scoring a hattrick in the corresponding fixture last season, when he ended as the competition’s leading try-

scorer, and then opening this campaign with another hattrick, winger Seiya Ozaki provided Suntory’s sole five-

pointer, although his effort was matched on the day by Toshiba’s Brave Blossoms winger Jone Naikabula.

Scorer of two tries in last year’s contest, and 10 across the season, the Kelston Boys’ High School (New Zealand)

educated powerhouse provided the second of Toshiba’s first half tries as they established a handy lead.

Frizell then ultimately settled the contest in the 57th minute by scoring the only try of the second period, although

Takamoto’s fourth penalty goal secured Sungoliath a valuable bonus point in what is certain to be a tense semi-

final race.

While Anscombe is out for the foreseeable future, Takamoto will soon have international support, with Sungoliath

having captured the signature of the 110-cap Pumas flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez as a replacement player.

Sanchez, who has scored 941 test points, featured in six of the seven matches played by Argentina at this year’s

Rugby World Cup, and becomes the 27th foreign player from that tournament to link with a Japan Rugby League

One club.

Wild Knights Run Wild

While Brave Lupus are one of four teams who are unbeaten after two rounds, it has taken just two weeks for

Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights to throw down the gauntlet to their rivals.

The seven-time champions were at their imperious best as they dismissed Hanazono Kintetsu Liners in Osaka

today, barely raising a sweat as they charged to a 49-0 victory.

Although Kintetsu held on bravely in the first half, limiting the deficit to 8-0 at the break, a try in the 3rd minute of

the second period by first season Brave Blossoms midfielder Tomoki Osada opened the floodgates, being the first

of seven for the half as the Wild Knights ran riot.

But for an uncharacteristically off-day by the Saitama goal-kickers, who between them missed five of their nine

attempts, the damage for the home side could have been even worse.

The five-star performance gives the Wild Knights back-to-back maximum hauls to kick off their title chase, already

being two points ahead of the same stage last season, when they failed to secure a bonus point from their

opening two wins.

While the Wild Knights were rattling their sabres, Kobelco Kobe Steelers also flexed their muscles, coming from

behind to beat a gallant Shizuoka Blue Revs, who fought back from an 18-8 halftime deficit to hit the front in the

72nd minute, only to concede the match-winning try a minute later.

Dave Rennie’s men started strongly, scoring the opening two tries of the game, with the home side not being

helped when their inspirational skipper Kwagga Smith was sin binned in the 33rd minute for a professional foul.

Fortunately for the Blue Revs, the incident only cost them three points, and Smith made amends when he

returned to score his second try of the season as Shizuoka clawed their way back into the game.

For all their spirit, the Blue Revs have a habit of losing the close ones, and today was another, with winger Kanta

Matsunaga’s 73rd minute try settling the contest.

After finishing ninth last term, the remodelled Steelers, have improved dramatically under the stewardship of the

former Wallaby coach, and sit third, a point behind co-leaders, the Wild Knights and Brave Lupus.

Saturday saw Yokohama Canon Eagles recover their poise after the disastrous opening round mauling by Saitama,

holding off Toyota Verblitz 24-22 in a thrilling contest at Kanagawa’s Nissan Stadium.

Both sides scored three tries, but the extra conversion kicked by veteran Brave Blossoms flyhalf Yu Tamura made

the difference, despite a late rally from Verblitz, who still had seven minutes left when All Black scrumhalf Aaron

Smith scored his maiden try in Japan, to close Toyota to within two points.

Despite playing the final stages without the former (Auckland) Blues second rower Liaki Moli, who was yellow

carded for dangerous play with nine minutes left, the Eagles successfully managed the time they were short-

staffed, condemning Verblitz to a repeat of last season, where they lost second up after having won on opening


There may be some nerves around the Toyota training base at Aichi this week as a result, with the two-point loss

to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Sagamihara Dynaboars in the corresponding round last year tipping their season

into such a spin that they lost their next three matches.

Perhaps ironically, they face the side who triggered that damage next.

Mitsubishi Gets Heavy Again

There was also a sense of repetition at Komazawa Olympic Sports Ground where the Dynaboars won for the

second week in a row to match last term, when they also opened with two victories.

Ricoh Black Rams were once again one of their ‘victims’, falling 25-17 despite a second try of the season from

backrow forward Nathan Hughes.

The former England international scored in the ninth minute but got himself yellow carded for a professional foul

17 minutes later, and Sagamihara made the most of his absence, adding 10 points to take a 13-7 lead into


Ricoh were the most heavily penalised side in last year’s championship, and the twin yellow cards they conceded

yesterday proved ruinous, as Sagamihara pushed out to a 25-10 lead after 63 minutes, which the Black Rams were

unable to run down.

English flyhalf James Grayson again proved a key man for the winners, kicking four out of five to go with his six

from six last week, while ex-Wallaby centre Curtis Rona was a try-scorer for the second week in a row.

Despite another strong start, Dynaboars coach Glen Delaney will be hoping the repetition ends there, as

Sagamihara won just two of their remaining 14 regular season matches last term, falling into the Replacement

Battle as a result.

Mie Honda Heat might be concerned about that fate already after the defending champions, Kubota Spears

Funabashi Tokyo Bay, ransacked Suzuka yesterday, returning to Tokyo with maximum points after a 75-0 victory.

Flyhalf Bernard Foley led the way, with last season’s leading point-scorer netting 25 points on an afternoon where

the visitors scored 11 tries, taking to 155 the amount of points Honda have conceded just two matches into their

return to Division One.

It gets no easier for the section’s newcomers next week as they host Sungoliath on Christmas Eve.

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