There was a familiar face at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground on Saturday as Eddie Jones watched his old club Suntory Sungoliath beat Honda Heat 50-0 for their second straight win of the new Top League season.
The current England coach, who has a long standing association with Suntory, is back for a short trip and the opportunity to watch Sungoliath play was too good to turn down.
“I’m just having a holiday here. I can watch all the games in England on the computer,” the former Japan coach said when asked why he was in Tokyo on the opening weekend of the English Premiership.
And while the rugby on display didn’t exactly match that of the 2011-12 squad he guided to the league title, he was pleased to see his old side win.
“I thought Suntory were poor in the first half and very good in the second,” he said. “In the first half they kept Honda in the game. They played at a slow pace and kept going to scrum, line-out and maul with no result. They didn’t look aggressive and didn’t get through the line.
“In the second half, George Smith started to carry the ball more and Kosei Ono was playing flatter so they were a different team.”
That “game of two halves” was reflected in the scoreboard with Suntory scoring two tries in the first half and five in the second, as Honda wilted badly.
“We were beaten by Suntory in all the stats,” said Honda coach Tomoaki Fujimoto. “We wanted to play the game in the Suntory half but we simply couldn’t get any possession.”
In the day’s other games, Munakata Sanix Blues won a thriller in Yamaguchi beating Toyota Industries Shuttles 41-38, NTT Communications Shining Arcs came from behind to defeat Ricoh Black Rams 28-13 and Kintetsu Liners edged Coca-Cola Red Sparks 26-19.
On a warm, humid night in the nation’s capital, Suntory opened the scoring in the fourth minute, when No. 8 Hendrik Tui dived over following good work by his fellow forwards.
Ono added the extras and then added a penalty eight minutes later after Honda prop Salesi Manu was rather harshly given a yellow card for doing little more than allowing a Suntory player to run into him off the ball and bounce off his 122-kg frame.
Smith may have been the oldest player on the pitch but he was wearing the snazziest boots and he used them to good effect in the 27th minute, sprinting over following an all-too-easy intercept 22 meters out.
Ono was again on target with his kick as Suntory went 17-0 up.
The Suntory center pairing of Ryoto Nakamura and Kotaro Matsushima both looked good but both were guilty at times of trying to do too much on their own, as Suntory left a number of points out on the field during the first half.
Tui extended the lead when he went over from a five-meter scrum four minutes into the second stanza, as Honda were once again on the wrong end of Kimitoshi Shiozaki’s whistle — the official penalizing Honda 21 times in the game to just three against Suntory.
And with the game won, Honda’s defense fell apart allowing Suntory to add a further four tries with Masakatsu Nishikawa bagging a brace, Yutaka Nagare and Kenta Tsukamoto also crossing the chalk, and Ono adding a further three conversions.
“In the first half we were too scared to break the line and didn’t play Suntory rugby,” said head coach Keisuke Sawaki, echoing the thoughts of Jones. “But in the second half we played with good tempo and dominated the game.”