Japan League One Round 10 Review

Japan League One Round 10 Review

Division One – Crowley off the mark as Honda fires up

Mie Honda Heat has given ex-Italy coach Kieran Crowley his maiden win in Japan Rugby League One after a

courageous 20-19 victory over fellow winless side, Hanazono Kintetsu Liners, in Osaka today.

Crowley’s men prevailed to gain their first win of the season despite being the third side of the weekend to suffer

a red card offense, when scrumhalf Takuro Hojo was dismissed at the half an hour mark for dangerous play.

While this year’s newly promoted side were ahead 14-5 at the time, having opened the scoring with Wallaby

fullback Tom Banks’ second try of the campaign, Honda were forced to draw on all their resilience throughout the

final 50 minutes of the contest, eventually getting the result despite some late nerves when Hanazono hooker

Kazuma Matsuda scored with one minute remaining.

The win, achieved against a Kintetsu outfit that fielded the Wallaby halves Quade Cooper and Will Genia, lifted

Heat off the bottom of the point’s table, leaving their rivals as the only club across the three sections of the

competition that has yet to win a game.

Crowley joined Honda this season, having presided over a renaissance in the Italian game by backing youth,

promoting several players out of the country’s successful Under-20s, which led to upset wins over Wales in

Cardiff, as well as a first ever win over Australia, prior his departure after last year’s disappointing Rugby World


Italy’s improvement continued in the just concluded Six Nations, where it beat Scotland and Wales, as well as

drawing with France.

It’s former coach, meanwhile, has found himself in the deep end guiding a team that was promoted from last

season, but with largely the same playing group, now matching up against superior opposition.

While today’s win is unlikely to spare Honda from a nervous finish to the season in the Replacement Battle series,

the victory, and the manner it was achieved, will undoubtedly give everybody associated with the club a major lift

as the critical stage of the season approaches.

At the other end of the point’s table, second-placed Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo put the disappointment of last

week’s first defeat of the campaign at Kumagaya behind them, despatching Mitsubishi Heavy Industries

Sagamihara Dynaboars 41-19 to continue their advance towards semi-final qualification.

Todd Blackadder’s men out-scored the Dynaboars seven-tries-to-three, with the result rarely in doubt after Brave

Lupus breezed to a 24-0 lead from the first 26 minutes of the contest.

After a three-match stretch without a try, All Black backrower Shannon Frizell was back on the scoresheet, picking

up his seventh of the season, before Mitsubishi self-destructed in the second half when it conceded two yellow

cards at the same time.

Having closed to 24-14 at the tail end of the opening period, the Dynaboars essentially conceded any hopes they

had when prop Hayato Hosoda and English flyhalf James Grayson left the field from the same incident, leaving

their side reduced to 13 for a period in which Brave Lupus took full advantage.

Tries within a minute of the pair’s departure, and again five minutes later, settled the contest, even though the

Dynaboars briefly closed the margin to 15 when their former All Blacks XV backrower Marino Mikaele-Tu’u scored

his first try in Japan with 12 minutes remaining.

Robbie Deans won the battle of the two former Wallaby coaches at Kobe’s Universiade Memorial Stadium, with

the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights seeing off Kobelco Kobe Steelers, prepared by one of his successors in the

Wallaby job, Dave Rennie.

The Wild Knights overturned an 18-14 deficit early in the second half to score their 10th win, posting the final two

tries of Saturday’s contest to finish with a 28-18 victory.

There were two yellow cards for dangerous play within two minutes of each other in the opening period;

Saitama’s ex-Hurricanes second rower Mark Abbott being followed to the sidelines by Kobe midfield back and

fellow ex-Super Rugby player Michael Little, with each side adding a penalty goal while their players were absent.

Kobe scored the opening try in both halves, with Brave Blossoms backrower Amanaki Saumaki giving the home

side the perfect start with a try in the third minute before the rival flyhalves, Bryn Gatland and Rikiya Matsuda,

traded penalty goals to advance their season tallies.

Although he finished up on the wrong side of the result, Gatland ended the afternoon with 130 points for the

season, three ahead of his Brave Blossoms’ counterpart, Matsuda.

Another Japanese international, winger Tomoki Osada, scored Saitama’s first try just before halftime, beating two

defenders on an angled run to give the Wild Knights the lead for the first time.

Even though Kobe replied after the break with a try by scrumhalf Atsushi Hiwasa, who benefited from a delicious

back flicked pass from centre Seungsin Lee, tries by backrower Itsuki Onishi and the returning Brave Blossoms

utility back Takuya Yamasawa ensured the league-leaders would remain undefeated while denying the fourth-

placed Steelers a bonus point.

Spears Not Broken Yet

Friday night saw 14-man Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay breath new life into their campaign after a frantic

three-point win over Yokohama Canon Eagles from a thrilling contest in downtown Tokyo.

The Eagles had appeared home when they led 26-15 at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium with just four minutes

remaining, but the yellow card awarded against backrower Kobus van Dyk for repeated infringements proved

ruinous as the defending champions conjured up a miracle by scoring two tries in the final three minutes to

manufacture a dramatic 29-26 win.

This outcome had seemed unlikely 43 minutes earlier, after Spears backrower Faulua Makisi was given his

marching order for dangerous play just before halftime, with his side trailing by four.

Yokohama quickly took advantage of their numerical superiority, finding space on the edge to create the

opportunity for the Kelston Boys High School (Auckland) educated centre Viliame Takayawa to score tries either

side of halftime, to push the Eagles out to 26-8, five playing minutes after the Kubota man’s departure.

That they were unable to further extend the lead against a depleted opponent ultimately cost the Eagles, with the

first hint of an alternative outcome being offered 14 minutes from time when a beautiful piece of backline

deception saw Spears flyhalf Tomoki Kishioka narrow the gap to 11 by scoring his side’s second try.

Any thoughts the Eagles may still have had about a comfortable finish were completely erased when van Dyk was

ejected after he cynically pulled down an advancing Kubota maul, with the Spears replacement hooker Hayate Era

setting up the grandstand finish when he scored from the rebooted maul with three minutes to go.

Canon were then left dumbfounded as to how the game had gotten away when winger Koga Nezuka crossed from

the re-start after a brilliant chip in behind and regather from Kishioka, handing the Spears a much-needed victory,

while denying the Eagles a chance to return to the top four.

South Africans were try-scorers for both sides, with starting hooker Schalk Erasmus scoring the second of the

Spears’ four tries from a lineout drive, while Yokohama’s recently arrived Springbok midfield back Rohan Janse

van Rensburg won the race to a chip in behind by veteran flyhalf Yu Yamura to post his second try from four

appearances in the league.

The win allowed Kubota to leap-frog Toyota Verblitz on the championship table after the latter was felled 39-38

by Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath in an even more dramatic finish at Aichi on Saturday.

Verblitz had seemed on course for a comfortable win over their third-placed rivals at a buzzing Toyota Stadium

thanks to two tries by All Black scrumhalf Aaron Smith, who backed up breaks by centre Siosaia Fifita and fullback

Taichi Takahashi respectively.

The double helped propel the home side to a 31-10 lead in the early stages of the second period, but a 21-point

advantage, that should have proved decisive, wasn’t.

For the second time in three weeks, Verblitz dramatically lost their way, conceding 29 points in the game’s final

29 minutes, after having leaked 42 at over a point a minute during the second half of their loss to Kobe.

The fightback was led by Suntory hooker and captain Kosuke Horikoshi, who plunged over from a well worked

lineout drive for his ninth try of the season.

This score was added to five minutes later by the impressive ex-Queensland Reds second rower Harry Hockings,

who popped up on the wing to pull in a pin-point wide pass from the man usually stationed there, winger Seiya


Toyota’s hopes looked to have expired when backrower Sione Lavemai rammed over from close range in the

62nd minute, with a penalty goal from flyhalf Mikiya Takamoto six minutes later suddenly giving Suntory an

unlikely 32-31 lead, and the momentum with the finish line in sight.

The drama was only just beginning though, and Toyota then appeared to have won it when winger Shuhei

Yamaguchi scored their fifth try after reclaiming the rebound from a penalty attempt by All Black flyhalf Beauden

Barrett which had bounced back off the goalpost.

The try restored the home side’s lead, 38-32, but there was more to come, starting with a red card which left the

34,568 patrons stunned as Toyota prop Gaku Shimizu was dismissed for illegal head contact in a tackle, just as the

final siren sounded.

The 25-year-old’s error threw Sungoliath a lifeline they took, as Brave Blossoms scrumhalf Naoto Saito scored at

the end of a feverish attack which saw the game tick into the fourth minute of referee’s time before the Toyota

defensive shield finally cracked.

Takamoto converted from in front of the posts to complete a remarkable one-point win which has taken Suntory

eight points clear of fourth, while dropping Verblitz to seventh on the standings with a 50 percent record.

Steve Hansen’s men are now only four points ahead of Shizuoka Blue Revs, who snapped a three-game losing

streak by accounting for Ricoh Black Rams Tokyo 36-29.

Shizuoka was helped to the win by another try-scoring double from the season’s leading try-scorer, Malo Tuitama.

The 27-year-old’s tries took his tally for the season to 12, two ahead of Takahashi of Verblitz, while bookending an

entertaining contest which the Blue Revs never looked like losing, even though the Black Rams kept themselves

within striking distance throughout.

Blue Revs’ Scottish-born second rower Murray Douglas also scored twice, once in each half, as Shizuoka overcame

the shock of a sixth minute try by the Black Rams’ ex-England backrower Nathan Hughes to work to a 21-17

halftime lead.

Led by two tries from winger Netani Vakayalia, the Black Rams closed to within two, but they were held scoreless

for the last 14 minutes as Tuitama’s second five-pointer, Shizuoka’s fifth, saw the Blue Revs home.

The loss leaves Ricoh eight points from safety with six matches of the regular season to play, and needing to stage

an unlikely revival if they are to avoid the jeopardy of the Replacement Battle.

Division Two – One hand on the Trophy

Urayasu D-Rocks took an important step towards retaining the Division Two title after beating Toyota Industries

Corporation Shuttles Aichi, 19-14, in the top-of-the-table clash.

The reigning section champions were always in front in today’s match after opening the scoring in the eighth

minute via the South African-born backrower Tyler Paul.

A further try by second rower Levi Douglas after 13 minutes later extended the visitor’s lead to 14 points, and

while that was pulled back to 14-6 at halftime after two penalty goals for the Shuttles by ex-England flyhalf

Freddie Burns, D-Rocks always held their rivals at arm’s length.

Burns missed the conversion of winger Go Nakano’s try, which had moved the Shuttles to within three points

after the break, and a try six minutes later by D-Rocks’ South African second rower Francois Marais proved


Although unconverted, the five-pointer created a margin the Shuttles were unable to overhaul despite a further

goal by Burns, as D-Rocks held on for a crucial win.

As well as taking Urayasu five points ahead of the Shuttles, who drop to third in the section’s standings, the win

completed a double for D-Rocks, having been awarded the first encounter because they were leading when a

lightning strike halted play.

The visitor’s win completed a disappointing weekend for the Aichi-based clubs after Verblitz were also beaten.

NEC Green Rockets Tokatsu appear the only threat to D-Rocks retaining the division title now after easily

disposing of Japan Steel Kamaishi Seawaves on their re-arranged trip north to Iwate.

After the original fixture was cancelled due to snow, the Green Rockets returned to Kamaishi today, and leap-

frogged the Shuttles on the point’s table courtesy of a 63-26, nine-try-to-two victory.

The out-gunned home side restricted the Green Rockets to a 28-19 halftime lead, having at one point led 9-0, but

they were blown away in the second period.

Brave Blossoms fullback Lemeki Lomano Lava scored two tries for NEC, who are still to play D-Rocks and the

Shuttles before the regular season in the division concludes.

Japan Rugby League One Fixtures Round Ten (all kick offs, Japan Time)

Division One

Friday March 15

Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay 29, Yokohama Canon Eagles 26; at Tokyo

Saturday March 16

Shizuoka Blue Revs 36, Ricoh Black Rams Tokyo 29; at Tokyo

Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath 39, Toyota Verblitz 38; at Aichi

Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights 28, Kobelco Kobe Steelers 18; at Hyogo

Sunday March 17

Mie Honda Heat 20, Hanazono Kintetsu Liners 19; at Osaka

Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo 41, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Sagamihara Dynaboars 19; at Tokyo

Division Two

Sunday March 17

Urayasu D-Rocks 19, Toyota Industries Corporation Shuttles Aichi 14; at Aichi

NEC Green Rockets 63, Japan Steel Kamaishi Seawaves 26; at Iwate

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