Japan Rugby Top League 2017-2018: Round 6 Wrap-up

Date Team Score Team K/O Venue
Fri, 29 Sep 2017 Ricoh 29-3 NEC 17:00 Chichibu, Tokyo
  Toshiba 19-17 Toyota Industries 19:30 Chichibu, Tokyo
Sat, 30 Sep 2017 Canon 33-29 Coca-Cola 11:30 ECOPA Stadium, Shizuoka
  Yamaha 19-38 Kobe 14:00 ECOPA Stadium, Shizuoka
Sun, 01 Oct 2017 Kubota 40-50 Toyota 13:00 Niigata, Niigata
  Suntory 69-7 NTT Docomo 13:00 Kofu, Yamanashi
  NTT Comm. 12-39 Panasonic 13:00 Miyagi-gun, Miyagi
  Sanix 18-24 Kintetsu 13:00 Global Arena, Fukuoka

In the last Friday night games for the season, Ricoh Black Rams played NEC Green Rockets in the first game of a double header at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo. The Black Rams tallied up their fourth win of the season with a comprehensive 29-3 win over the Green Rockets to stay in the top half of the White Conference table. The men in black ran in four unanswered tries to put the icing on the conquest with the winning bonus point. Left wing Genki Hasegawa got a double while lock Michael Broadhurst and replacement forward Josh Mau picked up the other five pointers. To finish off the scoring, flyhalf Robbie Robinson chipped in with two conversions and a penalty. It was lean pickings for the vanquished, though, with playmaker Yosuke Morita kicking a lone penalty. Broadhurst, who has 26 tests for Japan to his name, had another big performance to obtain the man-of-the-match accolade for the second week in a row. The big man sent national head coach Jamie Joseph a gentle reminder that he still has what it takes to play at the highest level of the game.

In the second game in Tokyo, Toshiba Brave Lupus scrambled home 19-17 over a dogged Toyota Industries Shuttles. Toshiba accomplished only their second win of the season against the winless Shuttles, but it nearly did not happen. A converted try to big Australian-born lock Caderyn Neville in the opening minutes of the second half nudged the Shuttles ahead 17-14 and from there they held on grimly until one minute from time. The Shuttles pulled off a shock win over the Brave Lupus in the corresponding clash last year and looked for all money that they were going to do it again. However, replacement back Shohei Toyoshima saved the day for Toshiba with a try in the seventy-ninth minute and although fullback Coenraad van Wyk was off-target with the conversion, it was enough to scrape in for the much-needed win. Wing Kai Ishii and Van Wyk scored the other tries for Toshiba whilst wing Benjamin Saunders along with Neville were the try scorers for the Shuttles.

There were two games on Saturday in a double header at the Shizuoka Stadium ECOPA in Fukuroi city, Shizuoka. In the first game, Canon Eagles beat Coca-Cola Red Sparks 33-29. In a gripping contest, Coca-Cola scored five tries to three, but still went on to lose the match. The difference boiled down to a flawless kicking display from playmaker Juan-Claude Roos who knocked over all three conversions, added three penalties and secured the win with a late drop goal. Left wing Kameli Soejima touched down twice for the Red Sparks with right wing Naoki Sarugaku, centre William Tupou and hooker Mitsumasa Harayama getting the other tries, but even that was not enough for the win. Momentum swayed throughout the game as the Red Sparks led 12-0 early on, trailed 16-12 at the break, got back to a 24-16 lead early in the second half before the Eagles went ahead 30-24 by the hour. The tussle continued down to the wire, but Canon kept the lead until the final whistle. Canon wing Hosea Saumaki scored all three tries for his side and was man of the match.

In the other game at Shizuoka, Yamaha Jubilo lost 38-19 to Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers. In a dominant display, the Steelers outscored the Jubilo six tries to three to keep their unbeaten record intact and their title aspirations on track. First half tries to halfback Andy Ellis, lock Ryuta Yasui and replacement back Kenji Shomen took Kobe out to a handy 21-7 lead at the break, and from there Yamaha never challenged the lead. Flanker Shohei Maekawa widened the gap to 28-7 with a try early in the second half, before Yamaha responded with tries to lock Yuya Odo and wing Chikara Ito to close the margin to 28-19. The Yamaha fightback ended there; however, with further tries to Shomen and Andries Bekker off the bench sealing the victory for Kobe. Centre Ryohei Yamanaka was instrumental in the win with four conversions and picked up the man-of-the-match award for his efforts.

On Sunday, there were four games across Japan, starting with Kubota Spears playing Toyota Verblitz at the Shibata City Ijimi Sports Park in Niigata prefecture. In one of the highest scoring games of the season to date, Toyota scored seven tries to six, and eventually subdued Kubota 50-40 for their fourth win of the year. The Verblitz piled on six five-pointers in the opening half, including a hat-trick to South African fullback Gio Aplon, to power out to a 40-21 lead at halftime. The Spears then went on to win the second half on the scoreboard and even made it back to 40-all at one stage in the final quarter, only for the Verblitz to pull away once again. Replacement playmaker Takaya Monji scored a try and added the conversion and a penalty to see Toyota cross the finish line ahead of their opposition. For Kubota, lock Yuki Aoki and No8 Yuki Shishimoto both picked up doubles with wing Matt Saunders and fullback Kazuhiro Goya the other try scorers.

Elsewhere on Sunday, at the Yamanashi Chuo Bank Stadium in Kofu city, Yamanashi, Suntory Sungoliath crushed NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes 69-7. Suntory as the defending Top League champions kept their unbeaten run in place with this emphatic 11 tries to one display of running rugby against newly promoted Docomo. Eleven different players scored the tries for the Sungoliath including man of the match in flanker Hendrik Tui, goal-kicking five-eighth Kosei Ono and Japan international fullback Kotaro Matsushima. Ono completed the rout with seven conversions for a personal tally of 19 points for the match. The Red Hurricanes started on the right foot with a converted try to prop Munetaka Sashida giving Docomo an early 7-0 lead, but after that it was all Suntory.

At the Hitomebore Stadium in Miyagi prefecture on Sunday, NTT Communications Shining Arcs went down to Panasonic Wild Knights 39-12. The Wild Knights continued their impressive run of bonus-point wins with this five-tries-to-two victory over the Shining Arcs to stay atop the White Conference table ladder. Former Wallabies winger Digby Ioane was the man in the spotlight today with a hat-trick of tries handing him the man-of-the-match award while right wing Akihito Yamada and replacement prop Shohei Hirano scored the other tries. Five-eighth Berrick Barnes chipped in with three conversions and two penalties while Takuya Yamasawa added the final two points. It was all one-way traffic in the opening half with Panasonic accumulating a 25-0 lead by halftime. Centre Takuya Ishibashi got NTT on the board with a try early in the second half, but Panasonic kept the pressure up to move ahead 39-5 in the countdown to the fulltime whistle. The Shining Arcs got a late consolation try to make the final score look that much more respectable, but the day belonged to the hot title contenders.

In the remaining game on Sunday, Munakata Sanix Blues lost 24-18 to Kintetsu Liners at their Global Arena Stadium in Munakata city, Fukuoka. Although it was scrappy, Kintetsu racked up their third win of the season leaving Sanix to ponder their fifth loss in a row. Fullback Benjamin Ray Yagi got the Blues on the board first with flyhalf Hiroshi Tashiro adding a penalty to stretch the lead to 8-0 by the halfway mark of the first half, but the Liners finished strongly. Right wing Ruan Combrinck and fullback Semisi Masirewa crossed the Blues’ whitewash to help the Liners jump out to a 17-8 lead at the break. The Blues fought back as the latter half got underway with a try to wing Andrew Everingham closing the gap to 17-15. Nonetheless, a try to replacement half Kosuke Enomoto in the seventy-fourth minute handed the game to Kintetsu with Sanix landing a late penalty to collect the losing bonus point.