Suntory Beat Panasonic in Thrilling Final

TOKYO (Jan. 13) – Suntory Sungoliath bagged their eighth All-Japan Championship crown and their fifth Japan Rugby Top League title Saturday as they beat Panasonic Wild Knights 12-8.

First-half tries from Ryoto Nakamura and Shota Emi and a conversion from Matt Giteau saw Suntory turn around 12-5 up and they held on the rest of the way in front of 23,416 fans at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.

“That was the best we have played all season,” said Suntory coach Keisuke Sawaki. “We showed a lot of patience, never panicked and communicated well throughout the game. It really was a good performance.”

Daniel Heenan touched down for Panasonic and Takuya Yamasawa added a second-half penalty for the Wild Knights, whose game plan was disrupted by first-half injuries to Berrick Barnes and David Pocock.

“We came up short today but contributed to what was a great final,” said Panasonic coach Robbie Deans, who saw his side lose for the first time this season.  “We just couldn’t put the ball down over the chalk. That was the difference.”

Meanwhile, Kintetsu Liners will play in the Top Challenge League next season after they were beaten 21-13 by NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes in the game to determine 15th and 16th spots in the league.

TCL champions Honda Heat will replace Kintetsu, while Munakata Sanix Blues, Coca-Cola Red Sparks and Docomo will play one-off promotion/relegation playoff games on Jan. 20 against the sides finishing second to fourth in the TCL.

Sanix beat the Red Sparks 32-5 on Saturday and will play Kyuden Voltex, Coca-Cola will take on Mitsubishi Sagamihara Dynaboars, while the Red Hurricanes will play TCL runners-up Hino Red Dolphins.

In the day’s other top-flight game, a brace of tries from Male Sa’u helped Yamaha Jubilo beat Toyota Verblitz 28-10 to claim third place.

The Top League concludes Sunday with four games to determine fifth to 12th spots.