Defending Top League champions Suntory Sungoliath carried their unbeaten record into the playoff final with a come-from-behind 38-19 semifinal win over Kobe Kobelco Steelers on Saturday.
After winning all 13 league games during the regular season, Sungoliath trailed 19-9 at the break with all nine points coming from Ryan Nicholas penalty goals. But it was all Suntory after Tusi Pisi came on as a substitute in the 33rd minute and finished with 13 points. Nicholas accounted for 15 points.
Ryuta Yasui’s 18th-minute try for Kobe and a conversion by Kyohei Morita made it 7-3 after Nicholas had opened the scoring in the 12th minute. But moments after the Australian-born Japan international made it 7-6, Steelers ran rampant. Shohei Maekawa and Yoshikazu Ohashi each crossed in a span of five minutes. With Morita converting the first, the score stood 19-6. At that juncture, Pisi and Atsushi Hiwasa came off the bench, and Sungoliath began grinding their way into the final.
Nine minutes after the intermission, Kensuke Hatakeyama crossed for Sungoliath, and eight minutes later Pisi put Suntory ahead for good with Nicholas converting both tries to make it 23-19.
Daishi Murata scored a try in the 60th minute, and 10 minutes later Pisi scored on a drop goal to make it 31-19. Pisi added his second try in the 78th minute and Nicholas converted to complete the scoreline.
Panasonic Wild Knights play Toshiba Brave Lupus in the second semifinal on Sunday.