7 Sides Book Spots in Championship Playoffs

TOKYO (Oct. 13) – With one round of pool play remaining in the 2018-19 Japan Rugby Top League season, seven teams have now booked their spots in the playoffs to determine the league champions.

Yamaha Jubilo, Panasonic Wild Knights, Ricoh Blacks Rams and Kubota Spears have wrapped up the four places from the White Conference, while Kobe Kobelco Steelers, Toyota Verblitz and Suntory Sungoliath cannot finish outside the top four in the Red Conference.

This season, the league’s 16 teams have been split into two Conferences — Red and White. Following seven rounds of pool games the top four sides from each group will play for the league title.

The bottom eight sides will fight it out to determine which four will enter relegation/promotion playoffs with the top four teams from the second-division Top Challenge League.

NEC Green Rockets, NTT Communications Shining Arcs and Toyota Industries Shuttles head into next weekend’s pool finale knowing they all have a chance of joining the seven, depending on results going their way.

On Saturday, Yamaha booked their spot by beating Canon Eagles 52-17 to make it 24 points for the season and they head the White group by two points from Panasonic, who saw their unbeaten run end at the hands of Ricoh.

A 72nd-minute try by Colin Bourke sealed a 26-17 win for the Black Rams and leaves them in third place with 19 points, one point ahead of Kubota, who booked their spot with a 26-24 defeat of Toshiba Brave Lupus.

Toshiba, Canon Honda Heat and Coca-Cola Red Sparks will battle it out in the playoffs for ninth to 16th place, after Honda beat Coca-Cola 52-31 in the day’s other White group game.

Panasonic’s loss means Kobe Steel are now the only unbeaten side in the league, and the Steeler top the Red group with 25 points following their 66-37 win over the Shuttles in which Atsushi Hiwasa scored a hat-trick of tries and Dan Carter kicked sevens conversions from as many attempts.

Verblitz (22 points) are second after they beat NTT Communications Shining Arcs 38-36 thanks to a hat-trick from Yuki Okada, while Suntory are a further point back in third place thanks to a 40-18 victory over bottom side Munakata Sanix Blues.

NEC beat Hino Red Dolphins 38-12 in the day’s other Red group game, to ensure Hino and Sanix will battle it out for ninth to 16th place along with the sides finishing fifth and sixth in the pool.