On paper this game should have been a formality. The NEC Green Rockets — the All Japan champion of 2003 and riding high in third place in the Top League against the Secom Rugguts, winless in this year’s competition and without so much as a bonus point to show for their efforts.
But as the old saying goes “It’s a funny old game.”
By outscoring last year’s champion by five tries to two, Secom threw the formbook out of the window by comprehensively beating NEC 37-10 at Tokyo’s Chichibunomiya on Saturday — a victory that saw it move off the bottom of the table and go above the Fukuoka Sanix Bombs, who take on the in-form Kobe Kobelco Steelers tomorrow in Kamoike, Kagoshima Prefecture.
“The big difference today was attitude,” said Secom lock Inoke Afeaki.
“A few choice metaphors were used in the build-up to today’s game and we lived up to them. This was a do-or-die situation for us and we went out like a pack of lions and played off our hunger.”
The Secom pack dominated the NEC forwards, who were missing Japan captain Takuro Miuchi, and consequently forced the men in green to play off the back foot, and although its backs looked a little clueless at times, they were eventually able to make the most of the ball given to them by their forwards.
“We are a young team and need to be a bit more patient,” said Afeaki, who must have been pleased with how his team finished scoring three tries in the last 20 minutes.
The Rugguts fourth try, which earned them their first bonus point of their campaign, was perhaps the highlight of the game. Quick ball was recycled to Yoshiyuki Koike and the diminutive scrumhalf fed Brian Lima, who raced down the sideline, before giving Koichi Ohigashi a perfect lesson in the art of the Samoan sidestep, running straight through the hapless NEC fullback. Although Lima was forced into touch by Glen Marsh — one of the few NEC players to shine — the Secom pack regathered the ball at the ensuing lineout and Koike eventually forced his way over for his second try of the day.
“Secom deserved their win, they played well,” said a philosophical Marsh after the game.
In Saturday’s other games, Toshiba Brave Lupus drew 24-24 with Yamaha Jubilo, a result that ensures it stays top of the table, while Suntory Sungoliath beat Kintetsu Liners 52-24 to move up to second in the standings.
Given that NEC was coming off a 46-24 hiding from the World Fighting Bull, the Green Rockets will not be looking forward to taking on Suntory next week, while Saturday’s win will have given Secom added confidence ahead of its bottom of the table clash with Sanix — both games being part of a doubleheader at Chichibunomiya next Saturday.
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