Record Crowd Sees Suntory Edge Toyota Verblitz

TOKYO (Sept. 1) – A record Japan Rugby Top League crowd of 31,332 watched Suntory Sungoliath edge Toyota Verblitz 27-25 in a thriller on Saturday as the first round of the 2018-19 season was completed.

A penalty try in the 89th minute eventually proved to be the difference between the two sides.

A brace of tries from Jamie Henry looked to have seen Verblitz upset the two-time defending champions. But Suntory, for whom Kosuke Horikoshi scored on his Top League debut, never gave up despite being 25-13 down with less than 10 minutes remaining.

A try and conversion from Hikaru Tamura, who was an early replacement for Matt Giteau, got them to within five before they sealed the win long after the final hooter had sounded.

Earlier at the same ground, five conversions and a penalty goal from Ayumu Goromaru and a brace of tries from Takeshi Hino helped Yamaha Jubilo beat Coca-Cola Red Sparks 43-3.

Goromaru’s kicks also saw him pass Ryan Nicholas as the most prolific points scorer in the history of the league.

Goromaru, who made his debut in 2008, now has 1,195 points to his name, while Nicholas, who played for Suntory from 2005-15 has 1,188.

The two games at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo were both close affairs.

A drop goal a minute from time by Christian Lealiifano saw Toyota Industries Shuttles beat NEC Green Rockets 9-8, while a 77th minute try from Daisuke Hamano helped Ricoh Blacks Rams beat newly promoted Honda Heat 39-34.