Chiefs survive late surge to win in Tokyo
REVIEW: The Chiefs survived a late scare from the Spears to end The Cross Border Rugby successfully after a 35-30 win over the current Japan Rugby League One champions in Tokyo on Saturday.
Coming off the back of last weekend’s historic loss to the Wild Knights, the Chiefs appeared on course to ensure there would be no repeat when they strode to a 21-8 halftime lead, posting three first half tries.
Any thoughts of a comfortable ride for last year’s Super Rugby finalists in the second half were soon dispelled though, when Kubota wing Yamazaki Hiroyuki crossed for the first of his two tries in the 47th minute, which set up an enthralling last half and hour as the Chiefs struggled to fend off their gallant opponents.
While Chiefs hooker Bradley Slater extended the visitor’s lead to 10 points when he scored his side’s fourth try in the 57th minute, the teams traded three tries in seven minutes, with firstly Kubota prop Satoshi Saita cutting the margin to five on the hour mark, before Hamilton Burr scored in the 64th minute to extend it to 12 points for the New Zealanders heading into the final stages.
The run home was not without its anxieties, as the young Kubota side continued to press, and when Hiroyuki scored again, the Spears had four minutes remaining to pull off what had seemed for much of the afternoon like an unlikely heist.
With the Chiefs holding on, it wasn’t, but both sides will have come away from the afternoon with cause for satisfaction.
The Blues secured their second victory, downing the Eagles 57-22.
Having seen off Tokyo Sungoliath comfortably by 36 points on the opening weekend of The Cross Border Rugby, last year’s Super Rugby semifinalists made sure of the win with a dominant first half, where they scored five tries to end with an unassailable 31-5 lead.
The Eagles rallied gamely in the second spell, but their three tries were mere consolation, as the Blues added four more to finish with an impressive 35-point margin.
The visitor’s performance was led by All Black wing Caleb Clarke, who made a statement to the national selectors by scoring three tries before being withdrawn after 48 minutes.
The Eagles simply could not contain the powerful 24-year-old, who opened the scoring after 14 minutes, as the home side struggled desperately to try to contain their free-scoring visitors.
It took another 12 minutes for the Blues to score again, with All Black Stephen Perofeta crossing in the 26th minute, but the try by the Blues flyhalf broke Yokohama’s resistance, with the visitors adding three more in the remaining 14 minutes to essentially wrap up the game before the sides left the field for the break.
Although the Eagles fared better in the second half, with replacement centre Luturu Laualala scoring two minutes after the third of Clarke’s tries, the home side couldn’t put a stop to the Blues scoring, with second rower Josh Beehre among the side’s scorers, adding a second to his five-pointer from the first half.
Laulala, the younger brother of the former All Black centre Casey and prop Nepo, grabbed a second himself before the close, but the final nine-try-to-four winning margin was a clear reflection of the Blues’ superiority.
Today’s results mean the The Cross Border Rugby finishes with the Super Rugby sides claiming three wins to the Wild Knights’ impressive winning performance on behalf of Japan Rugby League One.
Japanese officials are hoping the inaugural tournament is the start of a regular and more formal relationship at club level between the two countries.
The Chiefs and Blues now return home, where they will play each other, before DHL Super Rugby Pacific kicks off on February 23 when the last year’s premiers, the Crusaders, replay that season’s final against the Chiefs in Hamilton.
The Blues are also at home, entertaining Fijian Drua a day later.
While the top division of Japan Rugby League One resumes next weekend, with the Wild Knights hosting Sungoliath and Verblitz meeting Heat, Yokohama are not in action until February 24 when they visit unbeaten Brave Lupus Tokyo.
Kubota travel to the still winless Kintetsu Liners in Osaka on the same afternoon.
Saturday, February 10
Blues 57-22 Eagles
Chiefs 35-30 Kubota Spears