Rugby fans in Tokyo certainly got their money’s worth on Saturday at Chichibunomiya.
during the second half of their Top League match at Tokyo’s Chichibunomiya Rugby Ground. Kubota won 24-10.
With the Kubota Spears beating Suntory Sungoliath 24-10 and going top of the Top League, and the Toshiba Brave Lupus edging the NEC Green Rockets 17-13, there were plenty of big names on show, and their influence is having a profound effect on the game.
Gone are the days of a company game resembling 80 minutes of touch rugby.
Instead we had shuddering tackles such as the one that saw Suntory flyhalf Keisuke Sawaki upend Toutai Kefu — though the former Wallabies No. 8 was to make more than his own fair share of big hits — and one absolute humdinger from Takuro Miuchi on Shogo Shimasaki.
Add to that Jason O’Halloran proving that what you lack in speed you can make up for in guile as he scored the Spears’ first try of the day, Cameron Pither showing his sevens skills in getting around Alama Ieremia, Glen Marsh giving a master class in how to play No. 7 and Jaco van der Westhuyzen showing just why he is the flyhalf of the Tri-Nations champion.
And just for good measure, we even had a couple of punch-ups, a couple of drop-goal attempts and the Kubota medical man bowled over in a tackle.
The first game proved what every schoolboy is taught: You can’t win games if you make too many basic errors.
Trailing 10-5 at the break, Suntory No. 8 Daishi Wakamatsu committed an absolute howler from the restart and 50 seconds later Hideyuki Yoshida made the Sungoliath pay, going over for Kubota’s third try of the day.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Sawaki then had a far-too-ambitious pass intercepted by Kunihiro Otsuru as Kubota ran away with the game.
“We only seem to play when we are desperate,” said Suntory center Pita Alatini of his side’s third loss of the season. “There doesn’t seem to be an edge.”
The win and the bonus point for four tries, together with the day’s other results, means Kubota heads the table.
“It’s uncharted territory for us,” said O’Halloran.
“We had a pretty simple game plan to kick ahead and make Suntory play from their own half and we did enough for four tries. Though I think the real key was our aggressive defense at the breakdown.”
The second game saw NEC, second going into Week 5, and Toshiba, fourth, fight it out in a real blood-and-guts affair.
In the end, three tries — all from rolling mauls — from a marauding Toshiba pack proved to be the difference.
“Their forwards were very impressive and had obviously done their homework,” said van der Westhuyzen.
In the day’s other game at Osaka’s Hanazono, the Kobe Kobelco Steelers beat World Fighting Bull 34-20, a result that sees Kobe, NEC, Toshiba and Toyota Verblitz all with 15 points, one behind the new leaders.
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