Cooper trumps Folau with key performance in Japan
JAPAN LEAGUE ONE WRAP: The ‘real’ return of Quade Cooper has trumped the brilliance of Israel Folau as Hanazono Kintetsu Liners took an important step towards Division One survival in Japan Rugby League One.
Kintetsu, who had won just once this term, thrashed previously-unbeaten Urayasu D-Rocks 36-14 in the first leg of their Replacement Battle, with Cooper’s confident hand providing a key difference for a side that had conceded 854 points in 16 games.
The match was the Wallaby playmaker’s first since rupturing his Achilles on international duty in August.
By the time the 35-year-old was withdrawn at halftime to manage his workload, Kintetsu led 19-7, with the pressure on Urayasu such that they had copped two yellow cards.
While only at its halfway stage, the move by Kintetsu coach Yoshitake Mizuma to manipulate the rules by running Cooper out for a minute in the last game of the regular season to ensure his eligibility for the relegation series, appears on-track to be a winner.
Deprived of front-foot ball and pinned in their own territory by the tactical acumen of Cooper and ex-Wallabies halfback Will Genia, Urayasu were unable to get Folau into the game until it was too late.
Dual international Folau’s sixth try of the season in the 67th minute was not enough to produce a turnaround.
The try was cancelled out by one from Cooper’s replacement Jackson Garden Bachop, leaving D-Rocks with a major hurdle to climb when they head to Osaka for the return fixture.
Former Wallabies Matt Toomua and Curtis Rona should be playing in Division One again next year after their Sagamihara Dynaboars swept aside Toyota Industries Shuttles Aichi 59-21 on Saturday.
A try by ex-Wallaby halfback Nick Phipps helped keep the survival hopes of NEC Green Rockets Tokatsu alive, despite their 34-29 loss to second division Mie Honda Heat on Friday.
The home side, which featured Wallaby fullback Tom Banks, led 27-5 at halftime but was pulled back as the Green Rockets scored four second-half tries.
Colby Faingaa’s Kyushu Electric Power Kyuden Voltex appear certain for promotion from Division Three, with the former Brumbies flanker a try-scorer in their 48-0 win over Shimizu Corporation Koto Blue Sharks.
The Wycliff Palu-coached Kurita Water Gush Akishima will have home advantage for the second leg of a tie that is on a knife edge after drawing 25-25 with Kamaishi Seawaves of Division Two at Iwate on Saturday.
The former Wallaby backrower’s charges led 25-6 but squandered that advantage in the final 20 minutes as the Seawaves stormed back to take the series to Tokyo all square.
Round One results:
Friday, May 5
Mie Honda Heat 34 NEC Green Rockets Tokatsu 29
Kyushu Electric Power Kyuden Voltex 48 Shimizu Corporation Koto Blue Sharks 0
Saturday, May 6
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Sagamihara Dynaboars 59 Toyota Industries Shuttles Aichi 21
Kamaishi Seawaves 25 Kurita Water Gush Akishima 25
Sunday, May 7
Hanazono Kintetsu Liners 36 Urayasu D-Rocks 14