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VIDEO: Kolbe dazzles in defeat

JAPAN LEAGUE ONE WRAP: Sungoliath remained third in the Japan League One standings after a remarkable match against the Eagles mirrored their dramatic victory over Verblitz a week ago, only in reverse.

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Having overhauled a 21-point half-time deficit to beat Verblitz with an injury-time score, Sungoliath were felled in a similar manner, going down 35-37  after an 83rd-minute penalty goal from Eagles flyhalf Yu Tamura.

It completed the surrender of the 25-point advantage they had had at the midway point.

Sungoliath scored five tries in the first half, including one from their returning Springbok wing Cheslin Kolbe.

Four were long-range efforts, as they repeatedly shredded the Eagles to romp to a 35-10 half-time lead, with the points all coming in a 23-minute burst before the break, after the Eagles had struck early to lead 10-0.

One of those long-range efforts was sparked by Kolbe who made a try-saving tackle before sprinting downfield in the build-up to a sensational try.

Whatever the message was that Eagles coach Keisuke Sawake gave to his players once they returned to the sheds, it worked they held Sungoliath scoreless in the second 40 minutes, while running down the deficit.

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The Eagles were aided by the faultless boot of the 70-test Brave Blossoms veteran Tamura, who kicked seven from seven to finish with 17 points, sparking scenes of pandemonium among his teammates after the winning goal successfully bisected the uprights.

While they ironically slipped a point below the Steelers despite the win, the Eagles are seven points ahead of sixth-placed Spears.

De Allende on the scoresheet

Friday saw the unbeaten Wild Knights move to within four points of semifinal qualification while leaving the title defence of the Spears teetering after the league leaders handed out a 55-22 spanking to their Grand Final conquerors of last term.

The Spears’ fate was effectively sealed in the 25 minutes leading up to half-time when the Wild Knights ran in four tries to charge to a 26-3 lead, with two-time World Cup-winning Springbok Damien de Allende opening the scoring after a bust from 40 metres out.

The Australian-educated centre Dylan Riley also got in on the act, collecting an intelligent chip from his Brave Blossoms colleague Matsuda for the first of his two tries.

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While the Spears had performed a miracle escape the week before, scoring two tries in the final three minutes to beat the Eagles, there was no reprieve this time, as the victors scored again three minutes after the re-start, piling on a further 29 second-half points to exact an emphatic revenge for their defeat in last year’s decider.

Riley, who has now scored 26 tries in 40 Japan Rugby League One games, finished the night on 10 for the season, just two behind this year’s front-runner, Blue Revs wing Malo Tuitama.

The 18-cap Brave Blossoms centre was the joint top try-scorer in the maiden edition of the league, two years ago.

*Meanwhile, Richie Mo’unga’s Brave Lupus Tokyo remain second, surviving a scare on Sunday against Black Rams Tokyo, winning 40-33.

Despite two first-half tries by Nathan Hughes, an upset in Tokyo seemed unlikely after All Black loose forward Shannon Frizell scored his eighth try from just 11 games to extend the second-placed Brave Lupus to a 33-14 half-time advantage.

It all changed early in the second half when back-to-back yellow cards to Mo’unga as well as hooker Mamoru Harada, both for professional fouls, left Brave Lupus down to 13 and the Black Rams sniffing an opening.

By the time Mo’unga returned, the Black Rams had levelled things up, with Australian fullback Isaac Lucas and Fijian wing Netani Vakayalia both having scored while their opponents were short-staffed.

Matt McGahan missed the conversion of the Vakayalia try and it remained 33-33 for 16 minutes before Mano rescued the four-competition points for Brave Lupus, taking them another big step towards the play-offs.

In other matches, Steve Hansen’s Verblitz virtually conceded any play-off hopes after an 8-24 loss to the Blue Revs, in a game notable for the yellow card and penalty try conceded by All Black flyhalf Beauden Barrett for dangerous contact to the head of Blue Revs wing Keagen Faria.

The Heat couldn’t back up their first win of the season, falling 26-31 to Sagamihara Dynaboars.

The Steels moved outright fourth after a bonus point 60-17 win against Quade Cooper’s hapless Liners in Sunday’s Kansai Derby.

Divisions Two & Three – Champions set for thrilling finale

Johan Ackerman’s D-Rocks face a straight shootout against Wayne Pivac’s Green Rockets Tokatsu, who will deny the defending champions back-to-back Division Two titles should they beat them in next weekend’s final round of the section’s regular season.

Both sides won in the latest round, although D-Rocks left it late, with South African hooker Franco Marais scoring the game’s only try in the 76th minute as the league leaders snuck past a gallant Voltex 7-6 On Saturday.

It took 33 minutes for points to be registered when Voltex wing Ren Hagiwara kicked a penalty to give his side the lead, which he doubled with a second goal six minutes from time.

Just when it seemed Voltex would cause the shock of the season in the division, they lost concentration which allowed D-Rocks to pounce, with the Marais try crucially converted by Hikaru Tamura to get his side home.

That result put the onus on the Green Rockets to set up a decider by beating Aichi, and the charges of the former Wales coach responded, keeping Aichi at arm’s length throughout the second period after six points had separated the sides at half-time.

The Green Rockets’ Wallaby scrumhalf Nick Phipps was among Tokatsu’s five try-scorers, with wing Kanta Omata picking up a double as their side extended from 27-21 at half-time to win 42-26.

The defeat continued a deflating end to the regular season for Aichi, who had been the form team in the early stages before back-to-back defeats to D-Rocks and now Green Rockets dropped them out of the title race.

Samoa loose forward Taleni Sau scored his fourth try of the campaign in Sunday’s loss.

The news was better for Red Hurricanes Osaka who won their first match since mid-December, holding off the Seawaves 38-33 at Iwate.

The Red Hurricanes led 19-12 at half-time after tries from the former Super Rugby trio of Michael Allardice, Bryce Hegarty and Blake Gibson, while the last of their six for the game went to former Wasps’-loose forward Josh Fenner.

The home side scored five tries of their own, the first of which was scored by their lock Hamish Dalzell, cousin of the famed Whitelock brothers in New Zealand rugby.

Meanwhile, the Division Three title is all but won by the Red Dolphins who extended their lead in the competition after a comfortable 45-18 win over their closest challenger, Blue Sharks at Gunma.

Sunday’s success, which was all but certain by half-time when Hino led 35-8, leaves the Blue Sharks 14 points behind the Dolphins with just five matches left of the regular season to play, and reliant on a major stumble by the division leaders to have any chance of bridging the difference.

Playing just his fifth match of the campaign, Wallaby lock Rory Arnold was a try-scorer for the Red Dolphins.

In the section’s other game, Akishima recorded their third win of the season at Hiroshima, but remain two points behind them on the standings, despite Saturday’s 48-28 victory.

Akishima coasted home on the back of a flawless goalkicking performance by one-time England representative Piers Francis, with the 33-year-old collecting 18 points after landing all eight of his attempts.

Japan Rugby League One Results (Round Eleven):

Division One:
Wild Knights 55-22 Spears
Blue Revs 24-8 Verblitz
Canon Eagles 37-35 Sungoliath
Brave Lupus Tokyo 40-33 Black Rams Tokyo
Sagamihara Dynaboars 31-26 Heat
Steelers 60-17 Liners

Division Two:
D-Rocks 7-6 Voltex
Red Hurricanes Osaka 38-33 Seawaves
Green Rockets 42-26 Aichi

Division Three:
Akishima 48-28 Hiroshima
Red Dolphins 45-18 Blue Sharks

 

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