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Bok duo on the winning side against All Black stars

JAPAN LEAGUE ONE WRAP: Former Wallaby coaches Robbie Deans and Dave Rennie have enjoyed big wins in Round Nine of Japan Rugby League One.

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The Wild Knights, coached by Deans and featuring Springbok stars Lood de Jager and Damian de Allende, ended the eight-game winning run of Brave Lupus Tokyo on Saturday while remaining unbeaten themselves thanks to a 36-24 win at Kumagaya.

Flyhalf Richie Mo’unga, who plays with fellow All Black Shannon Frizell, scored 14 points for Brave Lupus, including a try, to put his side to within five points shortly before the finish.

But a try by former Hurricanes lock Mark Abbott ended the comeback, leaving the Wild Knights five points clear at the top of the table.

Sungoliath were too strong for an improving 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 half-time.

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

Recently returned Japanese test fullback Semisi Masirewa scored his first try of the season for the liners, 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 World Cup.

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While well beaten, the Liners will be confident of achieving their first win in the next round when they face the side below them on the log, the Heat.

The Steelers moved back into fourth on Sunday, after ending the two-game winning run of Sagamihara Dynaboars 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 former Chief scoring his fifth try from the last four matches, alongside 13 points, to stay at the top of the individual rankings for point-scoring.

Sunday’s tally took Gatland’s return to an impressive 122 points, with 69 of those achieved in the last four rounds.

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The win, the Steelers’ fourth on the bounce, allowed Rennie’s side to jump above the Eagles despite the latter’s comfortable 34-17 win over a faltering Blue Revs on Saturday, which had briefly taken last year’s semifinalists back into fourth position.

Despite the concession of the 10th try of the season by the competition’s leading individual try-scorer, Blue Revs wing Malo Tuitama, in the second minute, the Eagles overcame the false start and worked their way to a 12-7 half-time 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 wing Burua Inoke, to finish the Blue Revs off, condemning them to a worrying third defeat from their last four outings.

Having been in the top four two weeks ago, defending champions the Spears are also on the slide, falling to a second successive defeat as Steve Hansen’s Verblitz made amends for last week’s traumatic loss to the Steelers 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 quarter.

Two tries by fullback Taichi Takahashi helped propel Verblitz from a 7-8 half-time 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 semifinal aspirations, moving them one point above the Spears in the overall standings.

While it didn’t alter their 10th position, the Black Rams Tokyo will be hoping Sunday’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 0-62 mauling by Sungoliath.

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

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

This meant the 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.

Japan Rugby League One Results (Round Nine)

Division One

Saturday, March 9:
Verblitz 31-27 Spears
Eagles 34-17 Blue Revs
Suntory Sungoliath 34-14 Liners
Wild Knights 36-24 Brave Lupus

Sunday, March 10
Black Rams 24-14 Heat
Steelers 43-14 Sagamihara Dynaboars

Division Two

Sunday, March 10:
Seawaves 28-11 Voltex

Division Three

Saturday, March 9:
Red Dolphins 52-21 Akishima
Blue Sharks 22-21 Red Regulions

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