Microsoft must be a very happy company.
The software giant not only had two of Japans biggest computer companies playing in the final of the cup competition it sponsored but it also had a cracker of a game.
A week after pulling a game out of the hat to reach the final, the Toshiba Brave Lupus almost repeated the Houdini act and only a forward pass prevented them from scoring what could have been the winning try in the fourth minute of injury time.
However, in the end the defense of the NEC Green Rockets held firm and NEC became the first holder of the Microsoft Cup, winning 24-19 at Tokyo’s National Stadium on Sunday.
The NEC pack, with Japan captain Takuro Miuchi and Glen Marsh to the fore, had put a stranglehold on the Toshiba forwards from the start and with flyhalf Kiyonori Okano kicking well out of hand the Green Rockets made the most of a strong wind to play most of the first 40 minutes in the Toshiba half of the field.
Marsh, who was the top try scorer in the Top League, took only seven minutes to add to his tally for the season, finishing off a well-worked, back-row move close to the Toshiba line.
“It was the same move we used against Suntory last year in the All Japan Cup final,” Marsh said.
“We knew we had to make the most of the wind and score first,” he added. “Toshiba are a good side and they came back well, though we blew a couple of chances in the second half. But we always seem to lift ourselves for the big games and in the end it was down to the side making the least number of mistakes.”
With the New Zealander’s partner in crime, Miuchi, using his impressive strength to barge his way over and Koichiro Kubota putting the finishing touches to a superb break by Leo Kawai, the Green Rockets led 21-0 after 22 minutes.
Okano added a penalty on the stroke of halftime but not before the Toshiba pack finally got its act together.
Yasunori Watanabe was on hand to touch down following a period of sustained pressure in the 37th minute and seven minutes after the break the gap was reduced to 12, when the referee awarded a penalty try to Toshiba after NEC was persistently caught offside close to its line.
Coach Masahiro Kunda, had gambled and won last week as regards his substitutions and the former national team hooker showed his hand in the 56th minute when he took off last week’s hero, flyhalf Hidetaka Shinagawa, replacing him with flanker Hitoshi Ono.
The athletic Ono added spark to the Brave Lupus and in the 65th minute, Luatangi Vatuvei continued his recent run of tries to finish a move that had begun deep in the Toshiba 22.
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