Japan Rugby Top League 2017-2018: Round 7 Wrap-up

Date Team Score Team K/O Venue
Sat, 07 Oct 2017 Suntory 45-0 Sanix 11:30 Chichibu, Tokyo
  NTT Comm. 27-18 NTT Docomo 14:00 Chichibu, Tokyo
  Canon 31-26 Kobe 11:30 Kumagaya, Saitama
  Panasonic 32-3 Toyota Industries 14:00 Kumagaya, Saitama
  Ricoh 6-12 Toyota 14:00 Morioka, Iwate
  Kintetsu 14-28 Kubota 13:00 Tenri, Nara
  Coca-Cola 24-33 Toshiba 13:00 Nagasaki, Nagasaki
Sun, 08 Oct 2017 NEC 15-35 Yamaha 13:00 Akita, Akita

In the first game of a double header at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo on Saturday afternoon, Suntory Sungoliath hammered Munakata Sanix Blues 45-0. Suntory maintained their unbeaten streak with this comprehensive rout of Sanix that keeps them on top of the Red Conference table. The Sungoliath ran in seven unanswered tries with the forwards doing the initial damage before the backs scored three late tries. The Blues maintained parity over the opening quarter of the match, but two yellow cards in quick succession from Scottish referee Keith Allen shook the bluster out of the Sanix game. Hooker Yusuke Aoki, prop Kensuke Hatakeyama and No8 George Smith touched down in the first half to see Suntory out to a 17-0 lead at halftime. More tries followed the break with flanker Hendrik Tui crossing the Sanix whitewash in the seventh minute to push out the score to 24-0. The reigning champions gave the ball more air after the hour with replacement wing Chihito Matsui crossing for a brace while fullback Kotaro Matsushima finished off the scoring with a late five-pointer.

In the second game at Chichibu, it was a battle of the Telcos with NTT Communications Shining Arcs playing NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes.
NTT Communications eventually came out on top to the tune of 27-18, but it was hard going with the win only secured over the final minutes of play. Former Springbok No8 Ryan Kankowski scored his first try for his new club late in the first half while compatriot Riaan Viljoen playing at fullback added the conversion and two penalties to give the Red Hurricanes a 13-7 lead at the break. Game captain Masataka Tsuruya lead from the front for the Shining Arcs as the second half got underway with a try in the sixth minute closing the gap to 13-12. Centre Shane Gates turned the tables with a try around the hour mark pushing the Shining Arcs in front 19-13 before Viljoen narrowed the margin back to 22-18 with a score in the twenty-sixth minute. As the clock ticked down to fulltime with the game still in the balance, Communications five-eighth Jumpei Ogura put the result beyond doubt with a try three minutes from time guaranteeing his side their fourth win of the season.

In another double header on Saturday, this time at the Kumagaya Rugby Ground in Saitama, Canon Eagles pulled off the surprise result of the round when they beat Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers 31-26 in the early game. Kobe came into this round with six straight wins under their belt and they were expected to easily account for Canon who only had the one win over Coca-Cola. It may have been a case of the Steelers underestimating their opposition, but regardless, the Eagles played out the full 80 minutes and fully deserved the win. Fullback Kosuke Hashino scored the first try for Canon, but Kobe responded with tries to halfback Ryang Jong-chu and flyhalf Akihiro Shimizu to grab a 14-7 lead after the first quarter of play. Canon hit their straps in the lead up to halftime with halfback Toshiki Amano and lock Suguru Hidaka crossing the Kobe whitewash to take a 19-14 lead into the break. The Eagles came out firing in the second half with flanker Naoto Shimada and wing Hosea Saumaki adding early five pointers to stretch the lead to 31-14. Kobe fought back with No8 Itaru Taniguchi touching down in the fifteenth minute and Ryang notching up a second in the thirty-six minute, but the Canon defence held long enough to take the result.

In the late game at Kumagaya, Panasonic Wild Knights made short work of Toyota Industries Shuttles 32-3. Panasonic scored four unanswered tries to keep their impressive run of bonus-point wins intact and preserve their place on top of the White Conference table with maximum points. The Shuttles are also in the White Conference, but with this being their seventh loss in a row, they sit at the opposite end of the table. Head coach Robbie Deans rotated a number of Wild Knights players for this game, but the quality in the depth of the squad produced the right results. Left wing Kenki Fukuoka and fullback Yoshikazu Fujita scored first half tries while five-eighth Takuya Yamasawa slotted a conversion and a penalty for a 15-3 lead at halftime. Yamasawa popped a drop goal early in the latter half before right wing Iori Kaji and replacement wing Kentaro Kodama completed the scoring with tries later in the half, both of which Yamasawa converted.

At the Iwate Bank Stadium in Morioka city, Iwate on Saturday afternoon, Ricoh Black Rams lost 12-6 to Toyota Verblitz. In a tight tussle where neither side could score a try, the scoring was done with the boot. Flyhalf Robbie Robinson converted two of four penalty attempts throughout the first half only for his opposite number in Lionel Cronje to slot two late penalties to tie up the scoreboard at 6-all by halftime. The arm wrestle continued in the second half with two further penalties from Cronje the only additions to the score line. As the final score indicates, solid defences dominated the match and this reduced the try scoring to zero. Toyota ground out their fifth win of the season, but Ricoh were far from disgraced as they at least collected a losing bonus point from the trip north. In keeping with the nature of the match, Toyota prop Kohei Yoshida was the man of the match.

Elsewhere on Saturday, at the Tenri Oyasato Rugby Stadium in Nara city, Kintetsu Liners went down to Kubota Spears 28-14. Kubota came up with their third win of the season with this gritty four-tries-to-two victory over a determined Kintetsu. South African centre Lionel Mapoe made the first touchdown of the match midway through the opening half with fullback Kazuhiro Goya adding the conversion for the Spears to push out to a 7-0 lead. Neither side could bother the scorekeeper for the remainder of the half with Kubota holding a slim advantage at the halftime break. Flanker Reiichi Tamura added a second try soon after the commencement of the second half with Goya on hand to land the conversion to widen the margin to 14-0. Nonetheless, Kintetsu soon struck back with a converted try to No 8 Iopu Iopu-Aso to shrink the difference to 14-7. Kubota maintained the pressure and further tries to inside centre Sione Teaupa and Mapoe took the score out to a commanding 28-7 going in to the final ten minutes of play. Fullback Semisi Masirewa picked up a late try for the Liners, but it had no effect on the outcome.

In the final Saturday game, Toshiba Brave Lupus made it back-to-back wins for the first time this season with a 33-24 win over Coca-Cola Red Sparks at the Kakidomari Sports Stadium in Nagasaki. Toshiba ran in five tries to four to outlast a spirited Coca-Cola side. The tries were shared around for the Brave Lupus with hooker Hiroki Yuhara and fullback Coenraad van Wyk among the scorers while Van Wyk added four conversions. Coca-Cola scored first with a try to captain Kota Yamashita before Toshiba added three tries to go ahead 19-5. Japan international centre William Tupou crossed the Toshiba whitewash in the shadows of halftime to see the sides go to the break with the difference reduced to 19-12. The two sides added tries tit for tat during the second half with the Brave Lupus doing what was required to come out on top. Toshiba No8 Michael Leitch was the man of the match.

In the only Sunday game in round seven, NEC Green Rockets played Yamaha Jubilo at the Akita Bank Stadium in Akita city in far northern Honshu. Yamaha were clinical in their approach to the game as they outscored NEC five tries to two to claim a 35-15 victory. Halfback Yuki Yatomi scored a brace in the opening half with fullback Ayumu Goromaru adding both conversions while all the Green Rockets could muster was a penalty to playmaker Yosuke Morita. NEC were first on the board in the second half with wing Teruya Goto touching down early on, but the Jubilo found another gear to again pull away on the scoreboard. Centre Male Sa’u crossed for two further five pointers to help widen the gap to 28-8. Replacement forward George Risale scored the second try for NEC, but Yamaha closed out the match with the bonus point when right wing Chikara Ito dotted down at the death.