Ackermann's men in fine fettle
SOUTH AFRICANS IN JAPAN: Israel Folau scored a hat-trick as he continued to dominate for the Johan Ackermann-coached Urayasu-based D-Rocks team in the Second Division of the Japan League One season.
D-Rocks top the table in the second division, one point ahead of Aichi, who are the only other unbeaten side in the section.
South Africans Franco Marais and Shane Gates also scored as D-Rocks outgunned Blue Sharks 68-17.
After scoring 10 tries in his maiden season in Japan, Folau now has four in the first two weeks of his second, as D-Rocks romped to a 51-point win over the Blue Sharks.
* Other South Africans to impress in League One include Springbok scrumhalf Francois de Klerk, who helped the Frans Ludeke-coached Tokyo-Bay come from behind to earn a 27-all draw with the Eagles.
The Wild Knights continued one of the most remarkable winning streaks in the game, after a 79th-minute try by replacement scrumhalf Taiki Koyama, converted by Japanese test star Takuya Yamasawa, got the League One champions home 15-14 over the Blue Revs.
The win was the 34th in a row for the side, which is coached by the former All Blacks assistant, Crusaders and Wallaby coach Robbie Deans.
It is a streak dating back to the 2019 play-offs.
The Wild Knights’ win allowed it to join surprise competition leaders, the Dynaboars, as the only two sides to have won on each of the first two weekends of play in Division One.
The league takes a break for the New Years weekend, with the third round of matches kicking off on January 7.
STEELERS 58 LINERS 36
Hat-tricks by each of scrumhalf Daiki Nakajima and inside centre Ngane Laumape spearheaded the Steelers to their first win of the season after a 14-try spectacular with Liners.
Inside centre Michael Little and the wonderfully versatile former (Waikato) Chiefs back row forward-cum-wing Ataata Moeakiola also contributed among the home side’s nine tries, which was four more than Will Genia’s Liners managed from a game that was evenly poised at half-time.
Just one point separated the two sides after the first of two tries by Kintetsu veteran Semisi Masirewa, just before the break, but the completion of Laumape’s hat-trick, six minutes into the second half, triggered an avalanche of points which saw the Steelers post four further tries to run away with the contest.
BRAVE LUPUS 17 BLACK RAMS 7
After a disastrous performance on opening day, the Black Rams were much better second up for the season, but it was still not enough as Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo ground out a 10-point victory.
Brave Lupus scored a fourth minute try through scrumhalf Takahiro Ogawa to lead 10-0 at the break and added a second via a penalty try 15 minutes into the second spell.
While the Black Rams finally responded 10 minutes later with a try by their Australian flyhalf Isaac Lucas, which he converted, the damage had been done as Toshiba kept the Black Rams at bay until the finish.
The Rams were not helped by the second half yellow card that was shown to English back row Nathan Hughes, which led to the penalty try, and a deficit which proved too great to close as Brave Lupus opened their account for the season.
DYNABOARS 27 VERBLITZ 25
Giant killers, the Dynaboars, made it two wins from two amid late drama as they edged out Verblitz by two points.
Fresh from a first up win over the Black Rams last week, Glen Delany’s men rallied from 15-3 down just before half-time to lead 27-18 with just four minutes remaining, before conceding a penalty try a minute later which threw Verblitz a lifeline.
Dynaboars wing Honeti Taumohaapai, whose second try just moments earlier looked to have sealed the contest, received a yellow card during the penalty try incident, but his teammates were able to hang on in the former Tongan sevens representative’s absence to complete the win.
The match was notable for the involvement of two Englishmen recently arrived in Japan, with former England Under-20 flyhalf Jamie Shillcock kicking five from six during his run-on debut for the Dynaboars.
Shillcock had made his first appearance for the club off the bench last week after joining from the collapsed former Premiership club, the Worcester Warriors. The 70-cap England lock Joe Launchbury, who joined Verblitz after his Wasps club also filed for bankruptcy, made his League One debut during the second half.
EAGLES 27 TOKYO-BAY 27
Two missed conversions in the last five minutes by Wallaby flyhalf Bernard Foley proved vital as the competition points were shared between the Eagles and the Tokyo-Bay.
The Spears had trailed their hosts by 10 or more points on three separate occasions during the game before setting up an unlikely victory through tries in the last five minutes by All Black midfielder Ryan Crotty and the uncapped loose forward Opeti Helu, both of whom had been injected into the contest by Kubota coach Frans Ludeke as second half replacements.
Although he had succeeded with four penalty goal attempts, Foley was unable to convert any of Kubota’s three tries, which meant the teams had to share the points after a thrilling contest.
Two tries by Fijian-born wing Burua Inoke, and some accurate goalkicking from flyhalf Yu Tamura (five from five) had Canon on course for its second win of the campaign before Kubota’s late rally, with Springbok scrumhalf Francois de Klerk completing the full game, after having been introduced by the Eagles off the bench last week.
SUNGOLIATH 50 GREEN ROCKETS 19
Sungoliath rebounded from last week’s defeat by the Steelers , showing no mercy as they ran in eight tries to overpower Michael Cheika’s Green Rockets.
The Green Rockets had entered the contest optimistic after last week’s narrow win over the Liners, but were under pressure as early as the third minute when Japanese test scrumhalf Naoto Saito opened the scoring.
By half-time the Sungoliath led 21-5 and while the Green Rockets did mount a brief fightback, closing to 33-19, there was no escape as Sungiliath bagged the final three tries to crack the half century mark and seize a try scoring bonus point.
The 31-point margin of defeat continued the unhappy recent relationship the Green Rockets have with Suntory, having lost by 46 when the two teams had last met, two seasons ago in the final Top League.
WILD KNIGHTS 15 BLUE REVS 14
Last season, the Wild Knights had needed an 81st minute converted try to steal a 26-25 victory at Blue Revs’ expense.
They had more time to spare at the weekend, but only by two minutes, as the gallant Blue Revs once again had victory stolen from their grasp with the finish line in sight.
Saitama led 8-7 at half-time after both sides scored a first half try, but the Blue Revs got their noses in front with just under half an hour remaining following a try by hooker Takesi Hino.
Shizuoka had clung grimly to its six-point advantage until the last 10 minutes as the Saitama pressure built, but a yellow card to centre Malo Tuitama with five minutes remaining opened the door.
As they had done in the corresponding game last season, the Wild Knights held their nerve to take advantage and grab the winning score prior to the final whistle.
A remarkable 11-minute hat-trick by Israel Folau highlighted D-Rocks’ 68-17 win over an outgunned Blue Sharks.
Folau crossed for his opening try in the game’s 35th minute and had a hat-trick by the time four minutes had elapsed in the second half!
By the time the 73-test former Wallaby was withdrawn in the 53rd minute, D-Rocks led 56-3.
Shuttles joined the D-Rocks in maintaining an unbeaten start, but were made to work harder, having to fight their way back from 7-23 down at half-time to account for the Red Dolphins.
D-ROCKS 68 BLUE SHARKS 17
HEAT 75 SEAWAVES 12
SHUTTLES 37 RED DOLPHINS 31