First loss for Deans' Wild Knights
JAPAN LEAGUE ONE WRAP: Former Wallabies coach Robbie Deans experienced defeat for the first time in four-and-a-half years as his Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights were upset 44-25 by Shizuoka Blue Revs in the penultimate qualifying round of Japan Rugby League One.
The Wild Knights were bidding to extend their remarkable unbeaten run to 48 games, having last lost a competitive match in December 2018, more than 1600 days ago.
Ex-Melbourne Rebels teammates, second row Esei Haangana and winger Marika Koroibete featured for an injury-hit Saitama, with the latter coming off the bench in the second half on a wet night at Kumagaya.
The Wallaby winger’s introduction was unable to swing the momentum, as the Blue Revs raced away with the game, after the scores had been locked 18-18 at the break.
Fellow Wallabies Curtis Rona and Matt Toomua also experienced disappointment, with a try from Rona not enough to prevent Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Sagamihara Dynaboars falling into the relegation zone after a crushing 52-19 defeat by Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo.
The pair will now play in the two-leg replacement battle against Toyota Industries Shuttles Aichi which begins in May.
Ex-Wallaby halfback Will Genia’s Hanazono Kintetsu Liners are also booked for the relegation series, but they gained a major confidence boost after beating Kobelco Kobe Steelers 34-33 in an electric finish on Friday night to claim their first win of the season, at their 15th attempt.
The Osaka-based Kintetsu trailed 26-3 at halftime in the Kansai Derby, but fought back with four second-half tries, the last of which was scored in the 80th minute.
Former Hurricanes flyhalf Jackson Garden-Bachop converted to complete the win, sparking jubilant scenes as the players and supporters celebrated an amazing comeback by the bottom-placed team.
While a bonus point ensured Kobe’s status for next year, the club, whom former Wallaby coach Dave Rennie has been linked to, could require a major rebuild.
Rennie’s Wallabies successor Eddie Jones had good reason to smile after Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath, for whom he is an advisor, won a tight game with fourth-placed Yokohama Canon Eagles 11-9 to book their semi-final place.
The other games over the weekend saw Bernard Foley rested as Kubota Spears Funabashi beat NEC Green Rockets 59-17, with Springbok hooker Malcolm Marx scoring his 10th try of the season.
Fellow international Nathan Hughes, who this week confirmed a desire to switch from England to Fiji for the Rugby World Cup, scored two tries today, taking his tally to eight in as many weeks, but it was not enough as Peter Hewat’s Ricoh Black Rams Tokyo lost a thriller, 36-34, to Steve Hansen’s Toyota Verblitz.
Wallaby Tom Banks and his Mie Honda Heat teammates endured a scare before edging the Shuttles 14-13 in the second round of the Division Two finalisation series, with Australian centre Clynton Knox scoring the match-winning try.
Honda now plays Israel Folau’s Urayasu D-Rocks to confirm the relegation series playing order.
Division One Results:
Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo 52 Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Sagamihara Dynaboars 19
Hanazono Kintetsu Liners 34 Kobelco Kobe Steelers 33
Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath 11 Yokohama Canon Eagles 9
Shizuoka Blue Revs 44 Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights 25
Toyota Verblitz 36 Ricoh Black Rams Tokyo 34
Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay 59 Nec Green Rockets Tokatsu 17