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Bok duo gets bragging rights over Kolbe in Japan

JAPAN RUGBY LEAGUE ONE WRAP: The gap between the Wild Knights and the rest is widening at the top of the Japan Rugby League One table but they had to work hard to extend their unbeaten record after a 24-20 win over third-placed Tokyo Sungoliath on Saturday.

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There were a few Springbok World Cup winners involved in the match with Lood de Jager and Damian de Allende representing the winning side against Cheslin Kolbe’s Sungoliath.

Sungoliath have not beaten their arch-rivals since the game resumed after the Covid lockdown – a losing run which includes two finals – but while that sequence was ultimately extended to five, the prospect of an upset had appeared possible when Sungoliath turned around a three-point half-time deficit in two-minutes shortly after the break.

After Brave Blossoms centre Dylan Riley had scored against Sungoliath for the fifth game in a row to help the Wild Knights to a 13-10 lead at the midpoint, Sungoliath grabbed the initiative through a dropped goal by rookie flyhalf Mikiya Takamoto, which was backed up from the re-start by a movement that led to a try by Riley’s test teammate and midfield colleague, Ryoto Nakamura.

Takamoto’s conversion pushed the visitors out to a 20-13 lead but Sungoliath failed to score again, with Wild Knights fullback Ryuji Noguchi’s 56th-minute try closing the gap to two points, before twin penalty goals by Brave Blossoms flyhalf Rikiya Matsuda, the second in injury time, finally confirmed the Wild Knights seventh consecutive league win of the season, but the first in which they have been held below 40 points.

Matsuda, whose conversion and four penalty goals took his tally for the season to 88, ended the weekend as the competition’s leading point-scorer, 14 ahead of Takamoto, who is tied with Kobe’s Bryn Gatland on 74.

While denied the honours, third-placed Sungoliath gained a deserved bonus point from their battling performance, which was achieved despite the absence of two of their three foreign capped test stars, All Black loose forward Sam Cane, and Argentine flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez.

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Riley ended the afternoon as the league’s joint-leading try-scorer thanks to his seventh five-pointer of the campaign, but Sungoliath wing Seiya Ozaki is just one behind after the competition’s top try-scorer from last term scored the first of his team’s two two tries.

The Wild Knights man has been joined at the top of the individual try-scoring standings by Verblitz wing Taichi Takahashi, who bagged a hat-trick in Saturday’s 54-7 win over the Heat.

The 26-year-old, who bagged four tries playing for the Barbarians against Bristol in November, has scored in all but one of his five appearances this term, including five from the last two outings, which has taken his tally to 22 from just 26 games for Verblitz in Japan Rugby League One.

It took until the 21st minute until Takahashi scored Verblitz’s first points, as the Heats initially threatened to make a game of it, but All Black scrumhalf Aaron Smith scored three minutes later – his third try since relocating to Japan – and the game already looked beyond the divisions’s tailenders by the time half-time arrived, with Verblitz ahead 19-0.

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So it proved, although it again took the Heat a while to crack once the game resumed, with 14 minutes elapsing before Takahashi’s second try got the scoring started.

It was the first of five tries for the locals in the second period, two of which were scored by Verblitz’s inform wing, while Samoan-born lock Isaiah Mapusua also grabbed a double after taking the field for the final half hour.

As well as heaping further misery on the winless Heat, the bonus point win enabled Verblitz to climb four places into one of the semifinal positions on the ladder, albeit having played a game more than eight of their rivals.

In Division Two, Urayasu D-Rocks returned to the top of the table after an 85-5 stroll against a disappointing Seawaves.

Led by a first-half hat-trick from wing Kai Ishii, and doubles from England-born former Bath Lock Levi Douglas and former Sharks (South Africa) loose forward Tyler Paul, D-Rocks were untroubled to collect the try-scoring bonus point they needed, finishing with six tries in each half as they put a sorry Seawaves outfit to the sword.

After trailing 43-0 at half-time, Kamaishi shipped a further 42 second-half points, and only narrowly avoided the further indignity of being held scoreless, with flyhalf Kazushi Ochi’s 76th-minute score sparing them of that fate.

Japan Rugby League One Results Round Seven (Part One)

Division One

Saturday, February 17:

Verblitz 54-7 Heat 7
Wild Knights 24-20 Sungoliath

Division Two

Saturday, February 17:

Urayasu D-Rocks 85-5 Seawaves

 

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