Japan Rugby Top League 2017-2018: Round 4 Wrap-up

Date Team Score Team K/O Venue
Fri, 08 Sep 2017 NEC 12-29 Kobe 19:30 Chichibu, Tokyo
Sat, 09 Sep 2017 Kubota 27-19 Toyota Industries 16:30 Chichibu, Tokyo
  Suntory 36-11 NTT Comm. 19:00 Chichibu, Tokyo
  Yamaha 35-12 Ricoh 17:00 Yamaha Stadium, Shizuoka
  NTT Docomo 29-19 Sanix 16:30 Nishikyogoku, Kyoto
  Toyota 23-18 Toshiba 19:00 Nishikyogoku, Kyoto
  Kintetsu 25-20 Canon 17:00 Naruto, Tokushima
  Coca-Cola 17-64 Panasonic 17:00 Saga, Saga

In the only Friday game in round four, NEC Green Rockets went under 29-12 to Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers in an evening match at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo. The Steelers posted three converted tries through centres Issei Shige and Ryohei Yamanaka and half Andy Ellis to be out to a comfortable 21-0 lead at the turnaround. Kobe were well in control at that point leaving the Green Rockets an all but impossible task to overcome. However, NEC struck first in the second period with a try to fullback Hiromasa Yoshihiro, but the comeback ended there. Fullback Codey Rei then slotted a penalty for Kobe followed by a further five pointer to number eight and captain Shohei Maekawa to blow out the score to 29-5. The men from Kobe were on track to pick up full points from the match only for NEC to score a late try through bench player Mao Enoki.

All the other seven games this round were slated for Saturday starting with a double header at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo. In the first game, Kubota Spears were too strong for Toyota Industries Shuttles taking the game 27-19. The Shuttles got on the board first with a try to veteran centre Joe Vaka, but the Spears struck back with tries to centre Sione Teaupa, flanker Grant Hattingh and Fijian international wing Patrick Osborne to lead 17-7 at the break. When hooker Hiroaki Sugimoto barged over for the fourth Spears try on the hour, it put Kubota in the box seat for the win. However, the Industries side fought to the end with wings Benjamin Saunders and captain and fullback Manato Hasegawa touching down to deny Kubota a bonus point in the five-tries-to-three loss.

In the latter game at Chichibu, Suntory Sungoliath beat NTT Communications Shining Arcs 36-11. Suntory as the defending Top League champions are still undefeated after four rounds with this six-tries-to-one win consolidating their place at the top of the Red Conference. Japan internationals in flanker Hendrik Tui and fullback Kotaro Matsushima both went over for doubles while wings Chihito Matsui and Takaaki Nakazuru added the other five pointers. The Japan internationals for NTT also stood out with centre Takuya Ishibashi scoring the only try for the Shining Arcs while five-eighth Jumpei Ogura added two penalties. This was the second loss of the season for NTT Communications who struggled to match it with the slickness and class of Suntory over the 80 minutes.

Yamaha Jubilo were at home at the Yamaha Stadium in Shizuoka prefecture to play Ricoh Black Rams. Yamaha made the most of their home ground advantage to run in five tries to two and collect full points in this convincing 35-12 win. The Jubilo made amends for the loss to Suntory last round with this resounding win in front of their home fans that keeps them in second place on the White Conference table behind Panasonic. The chief destroyer on the scoreboard was number eight Kyosuke Horie who finished with a hat-trick and also the man-of-the-match award. Meanwhile, fullback Ayumu Goromaru contributed a try and three conversions to the win during his sixty minutes on the pitch. Lock Michael Broadhurst and centre Daisuke Hamano scored the tries for a well-beaten Ricoh with Robbie Robinson adding a conversion.

In another double header on Saturday, this time at the Nishikyogoku Stadium in Kyoto, NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes beat Munakata Sanix Blues 29-19 in the early game. Docomo made it back-to-back victories with this four-tries-to-three win over the Blues in what is their first season back in Top League. The Red Hurricanes put in a solid opening half going to the break with a 17-7 lead on the back of tries to centre Mifiposeti Paea and wing Tomohiro Kurata. They then went on with the job in the second half, stretching the lead to 22-7 and then 29-14 later in the half. However, Karne Hesketh scored a late try for the Blues to give the final score line some respectability, but the day belonged to Docomo.

In the latter game in Kyoto, Toyota Verblitz beat Toshiba Brave Lupus 23-18. In a game of two halves, Toshiba led 13-0 late in the first half and then 13-5 at the break, only for Toyota to turn it around, dominate the second half and take the match. A try to lock James Moore and the conversion along with two penalties to half Takahiro Ogawa put the Brave Lupus in the perfect position, but the sinbinning of lock Kyosuke Kajikawa took the wind out of the Toshiba sails. A try to wing Jamie Henry narrowed the gap at halftime, then a penalty to flyhalf Lionel Cronje followed by a try to No8 Fetuani Lautami locked up the scores at 13-all. Nevertheless, Toshiba pushed ahead 18-13 through a five-pointer to wing Kai Ishii, but the Verblitz finished the stronger with a converted try to fullback Yuki Kido and a late penalty from Cronje delivering the knock-out punches.

Elsewhere on Saturday, at the Naruto-Otsuka Sports Park in Naruto city in Tokushima prefecture on the island of Shikoku, Kintetsu Liners played and beat Canon Eagles 25-20. Canon led for 75 minutes of this match only to see the game torn from their grasp over the last five minutes of the encounter. South Africa Ruan Conbrinck crossed the Canon whitewash for a late try to lock up the scoreboard at 20-all while Yasumasa Shigemitsu was the saviour with the conversion and a penalty at the death. Wing Hosea Saumaki and replacement hooker Daisuke Kaneko were the try scorers for the Eagles while playmaker Yu Tamura landed both conversions and two penalties.

At the Saga Sports Ground in Saga city in the prefecture of the same name, Coca-Cola Red Sparks stayed in Kyushu to face the potency of Panasonic Wild Knights. In the end though, the Red Sparks went down 64-17 to a Panasonic outfit on fire in both attack and defence. The Wild Knights went on the rampage with ball in hand scoring ten tries with left wing Kenki Fukuoka scoring a hat-trick and fullback Keisuke Moriya a brace. Coca-Cola kept the floodgates firmly closed in the first half, trailing 19-17 at the turnaround, but the second half was a different story. Panasonic kept the Red Sparks scoreless in the final forty while piling on seven five-pointers to rack up another big bonus-point win. Panasonic have earned the winning bonus point in all four games played so far this season, albeit against weaker opposition, but the signs are there coach Robbie Deans and his men mean business this year.