Japan Rugby Top League 2017-2018: Round 3 Wrap-up

Date Team Score Team K/O Venue
Fri, 01 Sep 2017 Toshiba 10-47 Panasonic 19:30 Chichibu, Tokyo
Sat, 02 Sep 2017 NEC 42-26 Toyota Industries 13:00 Sapporo, Hokkaido
  Suntory 27-24 Yamaha 16:00 Chichibu, Tokyo
  Canon 12-34 Toyota 18:30 Chichibu, Tokyo
  Kobe 45-7 Kubota 17:00 Expo Stadium, Osaka
  Sanix 14-35 Ricoh 13:00 Yamaguchi, Yamaguchi
  NTT Docomo 28-24 Coca-Cola 18:00 Kamoike, Kagoshima
Sun, 03 Sep 2017 Kintetsu 20-36 NTT Comm. 16:00 Kashihara, Nara

In the only Friday game in round three, Toshiba Brave Lupus went down 47-10 to Panasonic Wild Knights in an evening match at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo. The Brave Lupus took the fight to the Wild Knights over the opening quarter heading their rivals 10-0, but after that, it was all Panasonic. The Knights saw off the initial onslaught and wound up their offence trumping the Brave Lupus seven tries to one. Inside centre, Rikiya Matsuda picked up a double while, wing Akihito Yamada and veteran lock Daniel Heenan were among the other try scorers. Panasonic notched up their third bonus-point win on the trot to sit on top of the White Conference table with 15 points. Although it is still early in the season, the star-studded Wild Knights are shaping up as serious title contenders. The opposite is true for Toshiba, however, as two losses in the opening three rounds is not the start they were after.

There were six games on Saturday and the action kicked off in the north of the country with NEC Green Rockets beating Toyota Industries Shuttles 42-26 at the Tsukisamu Rugby Ground in Sapporo, Hokkaido. In a high-scoring affair, NEC outscored the Toyota team six tries to four with the Shuttles denying the Green Rockets a bonus point with a late try. It was mostly the backs that scored the points for NEC with outside centre Maritino Nemani crossing twice while flyer Teruya Goto helped himself to a five pointer to go with his hat-trick from last week. The Green Rockets led 35-12 at halftime and took the foot off the accelerator in the latter half to allow the Shuttles to win the period 14-7 and snuff out the winning bonus point in the process.

In the first game of a double header at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo on Saturday, defending champions Suntory Sungoliath played Yamaha Jubilo. In a game billed as the biggest clash of the season to date, two of the four unbeaten sides after two rounds went head to head with Suntory stealing the match 27-24 at the death. The on-field action lived up to the hype as the lead changed numerous times throughout with man-of-the-match Kosei Ono eventually dotting down for an overtime try to rescue the game for the Sungoliath. Both sides scored three tries apiece while the respective kickers in Ono and fullback Ayumu Goromaru for the Jubilo both had flawless days with the boot. In the end, though, Ono had two penalties to one on the scoreboard and that did the job for the reigning Top League titleholders.

In the latter game at Chichibu, Canon Eagles lost 34-12 to Toyota Verblitz. There was nothing between the two sides at the end of the first 40 minutes of play with Toyota holding a slender 7-0 lead at halftime. However, the game opened up as the second half got underway with tries to wing Tokiro Harada and fullback Lwazi Mvovo for Canon sandwiching a five pointer to Toyota halfback Takehiro Namekawa. Canon fought back to lock up the score at 12-all, but then fell away over the final quarter. Flyhalf Lionel Cronje slotted a penalty around the hour mark to nudge the Verblitz back in front and from there; Toyota went through the gears with three further tries. Right wing Seiyu Kohara finished with a double for Toyota and Cronje took the man-of-the-match award.

At the Expo ’70 Commemorative Stadium in Osaka on Saturday, Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers were far too good for Kubota Spears running out comfortable 45-7 winners. It was all one-way traffic from the outset with left wing Yoshikazu Ohashi, flanker Ryuta Yasui, centre Issei Shige and lock Andries Bekker crossing for first half tries to rack up a 31-0 lead by the break. It was more of the same after intermission with Bekker chalking up a double and right wing Akihiro Shimizu dotting down the sixth team try to balloon the score out to 45-0. The Spears managed a late try through bench player Ippei Okada, but it had no effect on the outcome. Ohashi was the man of the match.

Elsewhere on Saturday, at the Yamaguchi Ishin Park Stadium in Yamaguchi city in the prefecture of the same name in western Honshu, Munakata Sanix Blues lost 35-14 to Ricoh Black Rams. Ricoh recorded their second win of the season with this five tries to two win over Sanix that also saw them collect the winning bonus point. First five Robbie Robinson was involved all over the park with two tries, two conversions and two penalties for a personal haul of 20 points for the match. Not surprisingly, Robinson was the man of the match. Blues wing Benjamin Ray Yagi posted the first points in the match with an early try, but a brace from Robinson and another try from fullback Takuya Takahira had the Black Rams up 19-7 by halftime. Ricoh kept the momentum going in the second half with Josh Mau from the bench scoring late in the game to ensure the bonus point.

At the Kamoike Stadium in Kagoshima prefecture in the far south of Kyushu, NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes came from behind to beat Coca-Cola Red Sparks 28-24. Both Coca-Cola and newly promoted Docomo were winless after the opening two rounds of the season and a win here was vital, as victories will be hard to come by against the stronger teams in the league. NTT led 21-10 at the interval on the back of tries to five-eighth Yoshihito Sato, lock Joe Iongi and centre Masaki Kobayashi, but faded early in the second half. Converted tries to wing Kameli Soejima and replacement halfback Masafumi Tanabe pushed Coca-Cola in front 24-21 with the Red Hurricanes seemingly running out of steam. However, Docomo found their second wind with centre Mifiposeti Paea scoring the match-winning try inside the final ten minutes of play.

In the only Sunday game in round three, Kintetsu Liners suffered a 36-10 loss at the hands of NTT Communications Shining Arcs in Kashihara Park Stadium in Nara prefecture. Kintetsu and NTT Communications are in the Red Conference and with one win apiece coming into this encounter, both sides were keen to get a leg up over the other. In that respect, the Shining Arcs ended well on top with this categorical six tries to one win. In a close first forty, the score was locked at 10-all at the break, but Kintetsu fell off the pace in the second stanza as the NTT outfit opened up the game. NTT playmaker Jumpei Ogura was the man of the match for the second week in succession as he acted as the perfect linkman between backs and forwards, especially in the latter half. His try and three conversions also made sure of the win.