Wallaby captain eyes Japan glory
Wallaby captain Michael Hooper is still in the hunt for a title in Japan after Toyota Verblitz overpowered the Hino Red Dolphins 49-29 to qualify for the Top League quarterfinals.
Verblitz play the NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes in two weeks’ time after All Black halfback TJ Perenara’s team overcame Honda Heat 21-13.
The sizeable Australian contingent at the Panasonic Wild Knights can start thinking about the quarterfinals as well after burying Quade Cooper’s Kintetsu Liners 54-7.
Australian loose forward Jack Cornelsen scored two of the winners’ seven tries, as they blew Kintetsu away 47-0 in the second half, after being held to 7-7 at half-time.
Cooper’s fellow Wallaby, Will Genia, missed the game due to injury.
Next up for the Wild Knights is a rematch against the Canon Eagles, whom Panasonic beat 47-0 earlier in the competition.
Canon scored the upset of the day when they beat the NTT Communications Shining Arcs 43-13, with former Queensland flank Ed Quirk one of their try-scorers.
On Saturday, former Wallaby Bernard Foley scored his team’s opening try as the Kubota Spears set up a tantalising showdown against the All Black-laden Kobelco Steelers by eliminating Yamaha Jubilo 46-12 in Tokyo.
The defending champions stayed in the hunt by beating the Mitsubishi Dynaboars 50-17.
Jubilo’s exit brought the 16-year career of Brave Blossoms star Ayumu Goromaru to an end, with the face of the ‘Miracle of Brighton’ having announced his intention to retire at the start of the season.
Goromaru, who scored 24 points during Japan’s shock 34-32 victory over South Africa at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, played 57 Tests for Japan, and made eight appearances for the Queensland Reds in 2016.
The Damien Hill-coached Ricoh Black Rams, featuring Queenslander Isaac Lucas at flyhalf, eliminated Toshiba Brave Lupus 27-24 to set up a quarterfinal against the rampant Suntory Sungoliath, who outclassed the NEC Green Rockets 71-36.
On a mixed day for the Australians, Wallabies Samu Kerevi (twice) and Sean McMahon were tryscorers for the victors, while former Waratahs Patrick Tafa crossed for NEC.
The Green Rockets’ chances were virtually extinguished after 30 minutes when Australian lock Sam Jeffries was sent off for a shoulder charge.