South African fullback breaks Rams' hearts
WRAP: There was plenty of drama in Round Six of the Japan Rugby League One.
The Black Rams had their hearts broken, having been denied their second victory of the season.
The Spears won in a dramatic finish for the second round in a row, as they snatched an 18-17 at the Komazawa Olympic Park General Sports Ground.
After surrendering a 10-5 half-time advantage to trail 10-15 as the clock approached 80 minutes, Black Rams looked like they had stolen the game when their concerted pressure led to the award of a penalty try which put them in front by two points.
Having shown in the previous round that they will fight until the end when they scored a 79th minute try to pip Kobelco Kobe Steelers, the Spears did so again, winning a penalty two minutes later.
Fullback Gerhard van den Heever goaled to break Black Rams’ hearts.
Handling the goal-kicking duties for a second match due to the absence of regular Kubota sharpshooter Bernard Foley, the South African-born fullback slotted three of his four attempts to get the defending champions home, despite their being out-scored three-tries-to-two.
The win was a further tonic for the Spears in the final outing ahead of their clash with the Chiefs in the Cross Border competition with New Zealand Super Rugby teams on February 10.
* All Black back row forward Shannon Frizell joined the Wild Knights midfielder Dylan Riley as the leading individual try-scorer in Japan Rugby League One, after scoring his sixth of the season as the Brave Lupus stayed unbeaten after Saturday’s 28-12 win over Verblitz.
The 29-year-old’s try, which came with 11 minutes remaining, saw Brave Lupus move beyond a seven-point margin, which they added to four minutes later when centre Yotu Mori scored their third try of the afternoon to confirm Toshiba’s sixth win of the campaign.
Earlier the anticipated match up between the All Black flyhalves Richie Mo’unga, and his predecessor in the position Beauden Barrett, lasted for just 16 minutes before the Verblitz man was withdrawn from the game.
Barrett had converted the first of the two tries that were scored by winger Taichi Takahashi with the second, which came 17 minutes into the second half, closing Verblitz to within four at 16-12, before Toshiba’s powerful finish killed the game off.
Verblitz were not helped by the concession of two yellow cards, with both wing Viliame Tuidraki and second row Isaiah Mapusua spending time off the field.
The win keeps Brave Lupus hot on the heels of the Wild Knights, with two points separating first and second on the championship table.
With Toshiba not involved in Cross Border competition, the next outing for former All Black captain Todd Blackadder’s men will be on February 24 when they face fourth-placed Eagles.
* The Eagles, ahead of their match against the Blues in the Cross Border competition, fell to a 31-27 defeat against a Bryn Gatland-inspired Steelers – who overhauled a 0-10 half-time deficit to snap a run of three consecutive defeats.
Despite missing the injured Springbok duo of scrumhalf Faf de Klerk and centre Jesse Kriel, who both remain confident of returning prior to the end of the season, the Eagles appeared unflustered as a converted try by Amanaki Lelei Mafi as well as a dropped goal by flyhalf Yu Tamura gave them a deserved lead.
Gatland scored two tries in eight minutes after the break, both of which he converted, to wrestle the advantage Kobe’s way, only for the Eagles to respond with further tries by second row Max Douglas and utility forward Sione Halasili, forging Yokohama ahead 27-14 with just 15 minutes remaining.
Unfortunately for last year’s semifinalists, the Steelers weren’t done, scoring two tries in the final 10 minutes, along with Gatland’s first penalty goal of the game to inflict a second defeat of the season on Yokohama.
Fresh off the injuries to de Klerk and Kriel, Springbok boss Rassie Erasmus was given further concern by news that Shizuoka Blue Revs skipper Kwagga Smith has been ruled out for the rest of the competition after sustaining an adductor tendon injury.
Round Six results
Dynaboars 34-36 Sungoliath
Wild Knights 70-12 Heat
Black Rams 17-18 Spears
Blue Revs 50-12 Liners
Eagles 27-31 Steelers
Verblitz 12-28 Brave Lupus