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VIDEO: Kriel scores sensational solo try in Japan

JAPAN RUGBY LEAGUE ONE, ROUND 16 WRAP: Times, dates, teams are confirmed for the semifinals of Japan Rugby League One after the weekend’s final round of the regular season.

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The Saitama Wild Knights probably enjoyed the start of their ‘Golden Week’ holiday the most, spanking their upcoming semifinal opponents, Yokohama Eagles, 43-14 at Oita.

Although convincing, the scoreline disguises a mistake-ridden second half, where the Wild Knights let their enthusiasm get the better of them, as they struggled to turn their almost total dominance into points.

After a competitive first half, Brave Blossoms centre Dylan Riley broke the game open for the league leaders, moving his personal try tally for the season to 14 – joint second on the rankings – after a double strike in the final 10 minutes of the half,

It allowed the Wild Knights to pull away, extending a 17-14 lead to a 31-14 half-time advantage.

The big highlight for the Eagles in that first half was Springbok Jesse Kriel’s fantastic solo try.

The second of Riley’s tries were scored while the Eagles’ Wallaby Matthew Phillip was off the field, with the lock having been suckered into a professional foul, making an early tackle from an offside position after the Wild Knights re-started quickly from a free kick.

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Already ahead by 17, the visitors looked set to run up a big score after wing Koki Takeyama’s brilliant 47th-minute try extended the advantage beyond three converted scores.

That they didn’t was down to desperate Yokohama defence, as well as a plethora of turnovers which will have given Saitama coach Robbie Deans plenty of training fodder to use with his players before the re-match on May 18.

It took the Wild Knights until the 78th minute to add to their tally, scoring their sixth try when hooker Yuji Shimogama ploughed over.

Such is the club’s depth in the position, with long-time Test players Atushi Sakate and Shota Horie on the books, it was just the 32-year-old’s second appearance in the league.

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None of the Spears players will be adding to their game tallies for the rest of the season, but the outgoing champions departed with a bang, recording their fourth win in five against Tokyo Sungoliath, overpowering their rivals with three tries in the last 13 minutes to storm to a 45-26 win.

Prior to centre Sione Teaupa’s 67th-minute try, the Spears had never led in the game, falling behind from the early stages after the Ozaki brothers; Taiga, and Seiya, combined to score three first-half tries, which gave Sungoliath a 19- 14 halftime advantage.

That became 26-14 when Taiga completed his hat-trick, three minutes after the break, but the semifinal-bound Sungoliath didn’t score again, leaving the five-time Japanese champions with some major work to do ahead of their May 19 date with Brave Lupus Tokyo.

Kubota’s win means Sungoliath will enter the knockout phase, and the third Fuchu derby of the season, on the back of three winless weeks, following a draw with Shizuoka Blue Revs (31-31) and a defeat by Brave Lupus (27-36).

Their semifinal rivals welcomed back flyhalf Richie Mo’unga as they trounced Blue Revs 59-20 On Sunday, with the All Black announcing his presence by scoring 19 points, including a try, after missing Toshiba’s last three matches while on bereavement leave.

Fellow All Black Shannon Frizell, and the Brave Blossoms trio of wing Jone Naikabula (two), loose forward Michael Leitch and Lock Warner Dearns were all among the nine tries posted by Brave Lupus against a flat Blue Revs outfit whose season has collapsed in the last two weeks, conceded 122 points.

Heating up at the right time

The Heat might be headed to the Replacement Battle, but they showed they are going to be a handful for Aichi over the two legs of that series after their last-gasp 31-33 defeat by the Steelers on Saturday.

The division’s 11th-ranked side, who had been belted 15-80 when the teams met on the opening day of the season, rallied from 17-28 down with 30 minutes remaining to grab the lead heading into the final 10.

They couldn’t hold on though, as Kobe’s replacement hooker Takuya Kitade scored two minutes from time to seal fifth place on the log for his side.

Kobe outscored Heat by five tries to four, but the accurate boot of the former Super Rugby player Mitchell Hunt kept his side in the contest.

A renowned point-scorer in his native New Zealand, Hunt endured a lean time of it in his first season in Japan, with Saturday’s 11 points his first double-figure return from a campaign where he has finished with 36 points from 14 appearances.

By contrast, League One has provided a bonanza for his Kobe rival Bryn Gatland, whose eight points on his final afternoon of duty took the former Chiefs player’s season tally to 217 from 16 appearances, 25 ahead of his nearest rival, Saitama’s Brave Blossoms flyhalf, Rikiya Matsuda.

Gatland’s return fell one short of the 218 scored by his compatriot and former Chiefs teammate Damien McKenzie, but the All Blacks’ points in the maiden edition of the league included appearances in the semifinal and final.

English flyhalf James Grayson starred as Sagamihara Dynaboars bagged their sixth victory of the campaign, downing the Liners 46-36.

The 25-year-old Northampton Boys’ High School product collected 21 points, which included a try and a dropped goal, to finish fourth on the individual rankings with 148, ahead of both Mo’unga and his fellow All Black Beauden Barrett.

Wallaby Quade Cooper helped the Liners prevail in last year’s Replacement Battle against the D-Rocks, and his try in the defeat highlighted that he will be a key man again if the club is to maintain its place in the premier section.

While it never flirted with the positions in The Replacement Battle, nor did Verblitz ever threaten the top our; a fact Sunday’s comfortable 45-18 win over the Black Rams couldn’t disguise.

It took Verblitz nearly an hour to shake off their lower-ranked opponents, who took the lead in the 52nd minute when loose forward Nathan Hughes bulldozed his way over for the first of two tries, the second coming in referee’s time at the end.

The double took the England man’s total for the season to 10, one short of what he achieved last term – with the two-legged Replacement Battle to come – but his efforts were unable to get the Black Rams over the line on this day, as Verblitz finished with a rush, bagging five tries in the final 22 minutes.

Two of those, grabbed within just over a minute of each other, were scored in the last moments before full-time by All Black scrumhalf Aaron Smith, taking the total tries from his maiden season in Japan Rugby League One to eight.

Despite finishing the season with nine wins – one more than they achieved last term – Verblitz dropped one place in the rankings to finish seventh.

Japan Rugby League One Results – Round 16

Division One

Saturday, May 4:
Kobe Steelers 33-31 Honda
Saitama Wild Knights 43-14 Yokohama Eagles
Spears 45-26 Tokyo Sungoliath

Sunday, May 5:
Sagamihara Dynaboars 46-36 Liners 36
Brave Lupus Tokyo 59-20 Blue Revs
Verlitz 45-18 Black Rams Tokyo

Division Two

Sunday, May 5:
Red Hurricanes Osaka 22-12 Voltex

Monday, May 6:
D-Rocks 48-28 Green Rockets Tokatsu

Division Three

Saturday, May 4:
Akishima 38-33 Hiroshima

Sunday, May 5:
Blue Sharks 38-26 Red Dolphins

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