Top League Round 3 Wrap-Up


Sungoliath Grab Win At The Death To Stay Unbeaten

Reigning champions Suntory Sungoliath left it very late on Saturday at Chichibunomiya Stadium, winning a thriller 27–24 thanks to a last gasp converted try by Kosei Ono.

Yamaha looked to be on course for a deserved victory after dominating possession for most of the match, but a determined Suntory team refused to throw in the towel, with scrum half Atsushi Hiwasa opting for a quick tap and go before releasing Kosei Ono to cross the line right at the death.

“Yamaha had a strong set piece and we spent a lot of time defending but in the end the fifteen of us kept going and we scored the try,” said Ono. “The forwards did well in the scrum, lineout and maul, and then attacked again so they really helped out the backs.”

The first half saw Yamaha’s Yuki Yatomi cancel out Shota Emi’s opening try, with the scrum half taking advantage of some flat-footed defending to dive across the line. But a sloppy pass by Yatomi on the stroke of half time allowed Daishi Murata to run clear and restore Suntory’s lead at the break.

The game also saw two of Japan’s finest fullbacks face off against one other, with Yamaha’s Ayumu Goromaru at one end and Suntory’s Kotaro Matsushima at the other.

With neither team able to build up a significant lead in the second half, it looked like Kyosuke Horie’s powerful 71st minute try might just have won it for the visitors, but a tired Yamaha defence finally crumbled thanks to Kosei Ono’s heroics in added time.

“We have only played three games and have a long season ahead, but a win over Yamaha gives us confidence,” said a delighted Ono after the match.

With Suntory unable to gain a bonus point, Kobe Kobelco Steelers now sit on top of the Red Conference after beating Kubota Spears 45–7.

Tries by Andries Bekker, Yoshikazu Ohashi, Ryuta Yasui, Issei Shige and Akihiro Shimizu, along with Codey Rei kicking 13 points, saw Kobe continue their impressive start to the season.

Meanwhile, winger Seiyu Kohara bagged a brace of tries for Toyota Verblitz, ensuring Jake White’s team remains in the hunt for a top two spot, with a convincing 12-34 win against Canon.

NTT Shining Arcs made it back-to-back wins, beating Kintetsu Liners 10–36 on Sunday afternoon. Two clever cross-field kicks helped Willie Britz and then Ryo Tsuruda score two five-pointers to keep the scores level at 10–10 at half-time.

The second half saw NTT run rampant, scoring 4 more tries which leaves the Shining Arcs just one point behind Toyota Verblitz in fourth place.

At the bottom of the Red Conference, NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes won their first match of the season, condemning the Coca Cola Red Sparks to their third consecutive defeat, winning a tight encounter 28–24.

In the White Conference, Panasonic Wild Knights continued their perfect start to the season with another bonus point victory against Toshiba, winning 10–47.

Robbie Deans’ side once again started slowly, this time going down 10–0 within the first twenty minutes when Toshiba winger Kai Ishii chip and chased his way down the left wing to score a brilliant individual try.

Panasonic responded in the 24th minute when Berrick Barnes took advantage of a Toshiba lapse in concentration to set the in-form Rikiya Matsuda free to race to the corner.

Daniel Heenan powered over for another try before halftime, while Barnes added another 5 points with the boot to send the visitors into the break with a 10–15 lead.

The second half saw Panasonic turn the screw as they scored 4 more unanswered tries. Most impressive of them all was when Keisuke Moriya and Barnes ran from deep to set Matsuda free to score his second try of the evening.

The result sees Panasonic leading the way with 15 points while Toshiba look set for another difficult season.

Both NEC Green Rockets and Ricoh Rams remain in the hunt for a top two finish after picking up comfortable wins on the weekend, with NEC hammering Toyota Industries Shuttles 42–26, while Ricoh overcoming Munakata Sanix Blues 14–35.

- Lee Watkins: Sept 4th 2017


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Top League Round 2 Wrap-Up


Suntory and Panasonic Lead The Way With Bonus Point Victories

Reigning champions Suntory Sungoliath and last year’s finalists Panasonic Wild Knights maintained their 100% starts to the season with bonus point victories on the weekend.

A brace of tries from Suntory’s Matt Giteau and Kotaro Matsushima saw the defending champions see out a tight encounter in Conference A, beating the Ricoh Rams 31-15 on Friday evening.

After conceding a penalty early on in the match, Suntory bounced back in the twelfth minute when Giteau ghosted past his man to dive beneath the posts.

Then Kosei Ono’s clever grubber kick set Murata Daishi free to double the lead midway through the first half.

Giteau added another before half-time when he sent a long kick down the field for Daishi to chase. Daishi kicked the ball towards the try-line, leaving the Australian to cross over for his second try of the evening.

In the second half, the Rams came back strongly but two tries from Kotaro Matsushima sealed the win for the defending champions, ensuring they finished Round Two on top of Conference A with 10 points.

At Kumagaya Stadium Panasonic Wild Knights made it two wins from two in Conference B, as they ran out comfortable winners against Canon Eagles - winning the encounter 43-8.

Panasonic struggled for fluency early on in the match but managed to put twelve phases together before Digby Ioane dived across the line in the 28th minute.

Shortly after, Rikiya Matsuya continued his fine form from Round One, as he darted past the static Canon defence to set up a try for Akihito Yamada in the 33rd minute.

Panasonic then showed why they are one of the favourites to lift the trophy this season with a combination of pace and power. Iaone and Yamada both bagged a brace of tries, while Kenki Fukuoka showed tremendous speed, weaving his way through the hapless Canon defence and running half the length of the pitch to score his second try in as many matches.

Then the most impressive play of the evening saw Panasonic powering forward, putting together fifteen phases which finished with substitute Takuya Yamasawa racing to the corner.

Around the grounds

Yamaha and Kobe Kobelco Steelers also continued their winning ways, with Yamaha beating Toyota Industries Shuttles 10-38, while Kobe beat Munakata Sanix Blues 20-3 thanks to Codey Rei contributing 15 of those points through two penalties, two conversions and a try of his own.

NTT Shining Arcs won a tight affair against Toshiba 25-14 at Chichibunomiya Stadium on Friday evening. Fans at Chichibumoniya Stadium were able to see some of the best Japanese loose forwards in action, with Michael Leitch making serious metres for Toshiba, while Willie Britz helped set up a try for fellow Sunwolves’ player Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco after Hayato Mitsui’s mazy run at the end of the first half.

Amanaki Lelei Mafi also put in some hard hits for the Shining Arcs, helping to win an important turnover at the end of the match which took the game away from Toshiba.

Meanwhile, Toyota Verblitz bounced back from their Round One defeat against Yamaha, beating the Kintetsu Liners 22-9.

NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes and Coca Cola Red Sparks both suffered heavy defeats for the second week running, with the Hurricanes losing 45-24 against Kubota Spears, while the Red Sparks were hammered 48-12 by the NEC Green Rockets.

- Lee Watkins: August 27th 2017