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Last dance for two Bok's Knights in Japan

PREVIEW: Enthralling head-to-head contests headline Sunday’s Japan Rugby League One Final as the competition’s two best teams and best coaches come together for the last dance of a compelling season.

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Brave Lupus and Wild Knights will go head to head in this year’s Japan Final and some big names are up against each other.

Koroibete (Wallabies) v Naikabula (Brave Blossoms); Matsuda (Brave Blossoms) v Mo’unga (All Blacks); Cornelsen (Brave Blossoms) v Leitch (Brave Blossoms); Gunter (Brave Blossoms) v Frizell (All Blacks); De Jager (Springboks) v Dearns (Brave Blossoms); De Allende (Springboks) v Tamanivalu (All Blacks); Deans (Crusaders/Wallabies) v Blackadder (Crusaders/Bath) are some of the mouthwatering clashes in store.

The Wild Knights, unbeaten in 17 outings, are chasing a record seventh national title since the semi-professional era in the Japanese game began with the advent of the Top League in 2003.

Brave Lupus Tokyo have won five and will tie their opponents in titles won if they can reverse the result from their last appearance in the decider – in 2015/16 – when they lost 26-27 to this weekend’s opponents.

That result was the second occasion on which the Wild Knights pipped Brave Lupus in the final, having prevailed 30-21 when they met at the end of the 2013-14 season.

Although Toshiba’s titles are exceeded only by Panasonic, they have not been champions of Japan since the 2009/10 season, when they won their fifth consecutive championship, having first tasted success in the 2005/06 competition.

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Ominously, they have lost the last nine times that they have collided with the Wild Knights, including their date in March when Brave Lupus suffered their only reverse of the season in a 24-36 defeat.

The big questions to be answered in the final 80 minutes of the league season:

Something’s gotta give: With 32 wins between them (from 34 matches), the two best defenses in the country (the Wild Knights have conceded tries at an average of 2.4 per game, Brave Lupus at 3), as well as the two sharpest attacking units (Wild Knights average 6.4 tries a game, Brave Lupus 5), the margins promise to be tight.

Third & Fourth Playoff

It’s the game no one wants to play, but the one Sungoliath and Eagles find themselves in for the second year running, after their narrow semifinal defeats last weekend.

Yokohama won last year’s playoff 26-20 to finish third, which represented a commendable effort after their return to the semifinals following a long absence.

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The win broke the Eagles’ nine-game losing streak against Sungoliath, and they made it two in a row this year after a thrilling fightback from a 10-35 halftime deficit to win one of the games of the season, 37-35.

Unusually, both sides enter the contest having lost their last three, with Suntory winless in four after their run was started by a 31-31 draw with Shizuoka Blue Revs in mid-April and updated with the 20-28 loss to Brave Lupus last Sunday.

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