Suntory to Play Kobe Steel in Top League Final
TOKYO (Dec. 8) – Suntory Sungoliath will play Kobe Kobelco Steelers for the Japan Rugby Top League crown following Saturday’s two semifinals in Tokyo and Osaka.
Matt Giteau kicked a 42-meter penalty in the fifth minute of sudden death extra time – only the second time the format had been used in a top level game in Japan – to secure a 28-25 win for Suntory over Yamaha Jubilo at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.
Seiya Ozaki had earlier bagged a hat-trick of five-pointers for the two-time defending champions, who had to come from 22-13 down at the break to win it.
Yamaha, whose tries came from Takeshi Hino, Yuya Odo and Kwagga Smith, had forced the game into extra-time thanks to a penalty from Ayumu Goromaru after the hooter.
But it was Suntory who held their nerve with Giteau finishing the day with three penalties and two conversions to his name.
In the other semifinal, Dan Carter scored a try, kicked four penalties and two conversions and set up the decisive score for Fraser Anderson as Kobe beat Toyota Verblitz 31-19 at Hanazono Rugby Stadium.
Grant Hattingh also touched down for the Steelers, who reached their first ever playoff final, their only league title to date coming in the league’s inaugural season in 2003-o4 when it was decided on a round-robin format.
The final, which also doubles as the All-Japan Championship final, will be played at Chichibunomiya on Dec. 15.
That day will also see the other final-placing games being played.
Panasonic Wild Knights and NTT Communications Shining Arcs will play for fifth spot following 35-26 and 36-13 wins over Ricoh Black Rams and Kubota Spears, respectively.
NEC Green Rockets will play either Canon Eagles or Honda Heat (who play Sunday) for ninth spot following a 47-26 defeat of Toshiba Brave Lupus.
Hino Red Dolphins, meanwhile will take on the winners of Sunday’s game between Toyota Industries Shuttles and Munakata Sanix Blues for 13th place after they beat Coca-Cola Red Sparks 40-36.
The bottom four sides will then play one-off promotion/relegation games against the top four sides in the Top Challenge League.