Boks taste victory over Super Rugby opponents
CROSS-BORDER WRAP: The Wild Knights created history, becoming the first corporate club from Japan to defeat a Super Rugby Pacific side, after a comprehensive 38-14 win over the Chiefs in Sunday’s second match of Cross-Border Rugby at Kumagaya.
The six-time champions of Japan were too strong for last year’s Super Rugby finalists, holding their visitors scoreless in the first half before kicking on in the second period to advance a 14-0 advantage into a 24-point winning margin.
The Wild Knights were led by a sterling effort from Springbok lock Lood de Jager as they added to an outstanding home record which has seen them lose just once since rugby resumed in Japan following the Covid-19 pandemic.
This includes a run of 47 matches undefeated.
Wallaby wing Marika Koroibete got on the scoreboard, with his 65th-minute try effectively sealing the game for his side, extending the home side’s advantage to 17 points, with just 15 minutes remaining.
Fielding nine World Cup internationals from the Brave Blossoms, as well as their foreign Test players; De Jager, his test teammate and inside centre Damien de Allende, alongside Koroibete, the Wild Knights bossed their visitors in contact.
— JAPAN RUGBY LEAGUE ONE｜リーグワン🏉 (@LeagueOne_JP) February 4, 2024
They were slick on attack, providing the Chiefs with a multitude of questions their defence couldn’t answer.
The win was especially sweet for the Wild Knights’ tireless former Chiefs loose forward Lachlan Boshier, who was awarded the man-of-the-match award against an opponent who featured his younger brother and fellow loose forward, Kaylum.
The log leaders in Japan Rugby League One, who return to domestic action in two weeks, made a major statement on behalf of the league by the manner of the win, which saw the New Zealand side dominated for most of the match.
One of the proudest moments in the Wild Knights’ storied history, the success reinforced the value of Cross-Border Rugby, offering a pointer to the potential in future contact between teams from Japan Rugby League One and Super Rugby franchises.
While the Sunwolves previously appeared in Super Rugby, the Cross-Border Rugby series is the first occasion where teams from that competition have faced corporate clubs from Japan in a semi-formal setting.
Japan Rugby League One chairman Genichi Tamatsuka believes the series has the potential to lead to a more formal competition between the two leagues in the future.
The Cross-Border Rugby series, which is one result of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Japan Rugby Football Union and New Zealand Rugby last year, began with the Blues administering a painful lesson to Sungoliath, with a 43-7 win at Tokyo’s Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium yesterday.
Without their star internationals, Springbok fullback Cheslin Kolbe and All Black loose forward Sam Cane, Sungoliath looked lost after they were rocked by three tries in the opening 15 minutes, the third of which was scored by the visitor’s impressive wing Caleb Tangitau.
The 20-year-old bagged a second, six minutes into the second half, as any hope of a Sungoliath revival disappeared.
A 30th-minute try by Brave Blossoms wing Kotaro Matsushima had briefly threatened a response of substance from the home side, but that was as good as it got for the league’s third-placed outfit, being held scoreless in the second half as the visitors strode clear.
They added further four tries to complete a comprehensive 36-point, seven-tries-to-one, victory.
Although decisive, the win did come at a cost with the Blues skipper, the former Verblitz lock Patrick Tuipulotu, suffering a broken jaw which may rule him out of the Super Rugby season.
The Blues now play the Eagles on Saturday at the city’s Nippatsu Mitsuzawa Stadium to complete their programme in the series.
Sungoliath have two weeks to mull over their heavy defeat before facing another imposing task when they visit the Wild Knights to continue one of the fiercest rivalries of the Japanese professional club game.