Suntory, Yamaha Reach Playoff Semifinals

TOKYO (Dec. 1) – Suntory Sungoliath will play Yamaha Jubilo for a spot in the Japan Rugby Top League final following wins over Kubota Spears and NTT Communications Shining Arcs, respectively, as the playoffs got underway Saturday.

Suntory needed a strong first half and then some resilience defence in the second as they downed Kubota 28-26 in their quarterfinal in front of 11,770 at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.

Tries from Takaaki Nakazuru, Yusuke Kajimura and Sean McMahon had helped them to a 25-7 lead at the break.

But a second try from Takeo Suenaga and further efforts from Gerhard van den Heever and Ei Kawamuko almost saw Kubota steal the game at the death.

Matt Giteau finished the day with three penalty goals and two conversions as Suntory ensured they remain in the hunt for a third-straight league title.

Yamaha’s 33-21 victory at Yamaha Stadium came on the back of tries by Kyosuke Horie, Gerrie Labuschagne, Kwagga Smith, Eishin Kuwano and a penalty try.

The latter two came after Amanaki Lelei Mafi, who scored the opening try of the game, had been sin-binned.

Shane Gates and Isaac Ross were the two other NTT try scorers.

Two of the four quarterfinals to determine ninth to 16th place were also played Saturday.

Teruya Goto and Scott Higginbotham both touched down twice as NEC Green Rockets downed Coca-Cola Red Sparks 43-17, while Honda Heat downed Munakata Sanix Blues 38-34.

The remaining two quarterfinal games in each bracket will be played Sunday, with the semifinals on Dec. 8 and 9 and the final round of games to determine all the positions on Dec. 15.

The sides finishing 13th to 16th will then play relegation/promotion playoffs with the top four teams from the second-division Top Challenge League.