Suntory, Yamaha to meet in All-Japan final

Kyodo

Yamaha Jubilo will meet Suntory Sungoliath in the final of the All-Japan Championship following Sunday’s two semifinals at Kintetsu Hanazono Rugby Ground.

Top League runnerup Yamaha beat Toshiba Brave Lupus 21-9, while Suntory downed league champion Panasonic 31-25 to ruin the Wild Knights’ hopes of repeating last year’s league-and-cup double.

Tries by Mose Tuiali’i and Tatsuhiko Otao and the trusted right boot of Ayumu Goromaru saw Yamaha into its first-ever AJC final.

Turning around trailing 9-7 after Takahiro Ogawa had kicked three penalties for Toshiba, Yamaha defended bravely and made the most of all the penalties that came its way in the second stanza.

Goromaru failed to add the extras to Otao’s 53rd-minute try — which followed a storming run and clever offload from Dineshvaran Krishnan — but the Yamaha fullback nailed three penalties down the stretch, as the Toshiba players found themselves on the wrong end of referee Taku Otsuki’s whistle.

Yamaha was penalized just once in the final 40 minutes, against the eight conceded by Toshiba.

“We were able to establish our game in the second half, after allowing Toshiba to set the pace in the first. It was a tough game but a good experience for us as we go forward,” Yamaha coach Katsuyuki Kiyomiya said pitchside following the final whistle.

In the second game of the doubleheader, Tusi Pisi scored a try, two conversions and four penalty goals, and Shinnosuke Kakinaga and Kenta Tsukamoto crossed late in the second half as six-time AJC champions Suntory made it to their 10th final.

Takamasa Sakai, You Young-nam and Keisuke Uchida touched down for Panasonic and Berrick Barnes kicked two conversions and two penalties, but in the end the injury — and Super Rugby — depleted Wild Knights ran out of steam.

“It was a really tough game,” said Suntory coach Naoyo Okubo. “Panasonic took the Top League and they are a team we hate to face.

“We needed to attack and out of that we got some tries so I’m happy. Everyone pulled together and hopefully we’ll be able to carry it forward one more time.”

The final is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday at Tokyo’s Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.