The Toshiba Brave Lupus juggernaut kept rolling along on Saturday as the most feared pack in Japanese rugby brushed aside IBM Big Blue 67-18 at Tokyo’s Chichibunomiya.
A week after they had scored three pushover tries in ending the NEC Green Rockets unbeaten run, the Toshiba pack needed only three minutes to get their rolling maul working again with the formidable 120-kg Luatangi Vatuvei scoring the first of his three tries of the day.
With just five games played, the Tongan-born Vatuvei has already scored 10 tries — last year’s top try scorer was NEC’s Glen Marsh with 11 from 11 games — and with the Brave Lupus pack knocking over anyone that dares to come in their way, there is a good chance Vatuvei will add plenty more by the end of the season.
“The maul is one of our strengths and we play to it,” said Toshiba captain Nick Holten. “Like most teams, we hope to beat them up up front and then spin it wide. It’s the tried and tested method, as England showed in last year’s World Cup.”
Tried, tested and very efficient.
Leading 29-11 at the break, the Brave Lupus put aside their injury worries — they were missing four first-choice centers — and started to move the ball wide as the IBM defense started to tire.
With holes appearing and the IBM players feeling the full force of having to tackle Vatuvei and company, the Toshiba backs were able to get in on the act, with Nataniela Oto scoring the try of the game — a 50-meter run that combined both speed and brute force as Toshiba put an exclamation mark on its win.
In the day’s other games Toyota Verblitz and Yamaha Jubilo joined Toshiba at the top of the Top League table after they beat the Kobe Steel Steelers and the Ricoh Black Rams 34-20 and 38-8, respectively. All three sides have 20 points though Toshiba leads by virtue of having scored 34 tries, with Toyota second (23) and Yamaha third (21).
With the Kubota Spears due to play the NEC Green Rockets on Sunday, things could, however, change once again at the top.
Meanwhile, Suntory Sungoliath restored some confidence in a somewhat dispirited camp by smashing the Kintetsu Liners 67-14, while World Fighting Bull beat the Sanyo Wild Knights 28-23.
The win saw Suntory put nine points between it and the three teams hoping to avoid the two automatic relegation spots — IBM and Sanyo, which both have three points, and Kintetsu (2) — but it will still have its work cut out if it is to make the top eight and qualify for the Microsoft Cup and, more importantly, avoid a playoff to stay in the top flight.
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