Marx stars, Kriel sees red in Japan semis
JAPAN LEAGUE ONE, SEMIFINAL WRAP: Springbok hooker Malcolm Marx was the star of the show during Kubota Spears’ 24-18 win over Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath in the semifinals of the Japan League One.
Beaten finalists in the last two Japanese championships Suntory, who have won the title five times, were brave in defeat, having to play 75 minutes of the match with 14 men after Brave Blossoms second-row Hendrick Tui was sent off in just the fifth minute for dangerous play.
The dismissal of the Auckland-born former Queensland Reds player tipped the balance the Spears’ way, but only after heroic resistance from Sungoliath, who led at halftime and gave Kubota a few anxious moments at the finish when a last-minute try by All Black flyhalf Aaron Cruden cut the gap to six points.
Springbok hooker Malcolm Marx was Kubota’s main forward spearhead crossed the line in the second half.
The five-pointer was Marx’s 11th try of the campaign – one which ties him to Ricoh’s England international Nathan Hughes as the competition’s leading forward try-scorer.
Marx’s performance for Kubota follows an equally dramatic opening semifinal when Wild Knights won their way into a third consecutive final following a frantic contest that was punctuated by two yellow cards, and a Jesse Kriel red card against Canon Eagles.
The tone was set in that match in the first minute when the Brave Blossoms prop Aseali Ai Valu was sin-binned after he collided with Jesse Kriel’s head as the Yokohama centre returned the kick-off.
The South African was later red-carded himself, after a dangerous cleanout at a ruck, while the Eagles also lost Yu Tamura for 10 minutes due to a high tackle.
Kriel’s Springbok teammate, Faf de Klerk was prominent in the first half as his side jumped to an 11-point lead, with his quick thinking leading to the Eagles’ second try.
The South African scrumhalf, who is in his first season in Japan, caught the Saitama defence napping with a tap and go from a penalty near the Panasonic goal-line, with his subsequent wide pass putting Fijian wing Inoke Burua across for a 14th try of the season.
Much of the game though, revolved around two of Panasonic’s international stars, Brave Blossoms flyhalf Rikiya Matsuda, and Fijian-born Wallaby wing Marika Koroibete.
Matsuda gave an accomplished display from flyhalf which included a faultless performance off the boot, while Koroibete ran riot in the second half, with his pace and power proving too much for an Eagles defence that was run ragged.
The Replacement Battle also featured a red card with Urayasu’s South African hooker Francois Marais dismissed for high contact in a tackle as his side, which had easily won the Division Two title, slid to a second heavy defeat in six days against the bottom-finishing side from Division One, Hanazono Kintetsu Liners.
There were two promotions from the series, as Mie Honda Heat and Kyushu Electric Power Kyuden Voltex took the places of NEC Green Rockets Tokatsu and Shimizu Corporation Koto Blue Sharks, in Division’s One and two respectively.
Division One: Semifinals
Saturday, May 13
Wild Kights 51 Canon Eagles 20
Kubota Spears 24 Suntory Sungoliath 18
Saturday, May 13
HANAZONO KINTETSU LINERS 56 v URAYASU D-ROCKS 21 at Osaka
MIE HONDA HEAT 13 NEC GREEN ROCKETS TOKATSU 12 at Chiba
KAMAISHI SEAWAVES RFC 38 KURITA WATER GUSH AKISHIMA 28 at Aichi
SHIMIZU CORPORATION KOTO BLUE SHARKS 17 KYUSHU ELECTRIC POWER KYUDEN VOLTEX 12 at Saga
Sunday, May 14
MITSUBISHI HEAVY INDUSTRIES SAGAMIHARA DYNABOARS 43 v TOYOTA INDUSTRIES SHUTTLES AICHI 14 at Kanagawa