More Sports / Rugby

Black Rams top Green Rockets in Top League tilt

Kyodo

Ricoh Black Rams picked up their fourth win of the Japan Rugby Top League season Friday night as they beat NEC Green Rockets 29-3.

Genki Hasegawa bagged a brace of tries for the Black Rams, whose all around game proved too strong for NEC in this all White Conference affair at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.

“That’s the most consistent we have played all year,” said Ricoh head coach Matt Cockbain.

“I am trying to install the message, ‘Belief, confidence, execute,’ and it was nice to see us play the way we want to play for close on 80 minutes.”

While Cockbain was praising the consistency of his team, NEC head coach Peter Russell, whose side has three wins and three losses to its name, said the Green Rockets were their own worst enemy.

“We didn’t deliver,” he said. “We had opportunities but at times took the wrong decision and let Ricoh back into the game with long-range points.”

In the second game of the doubleheader — and the last night game of the season — Toshiba Brave Lupus picked up a second victory of the season as a late try from Shohei Toyoshima helped them to a 19-17 win over Toyota Industries Shuttles, who remain winless.

NEC and Ricoh spent most of the first half camped between the two 10-meter lines with neither side able to create any clear line breaks until the 23rd minute, when Hasegawa broke through the NEC defense.

The wing was tackled just short of the line. But with Amanaki Savieti infringing at the breakdown and earning a yellow card, Robbie Robinson kicked the penalty to put Ricoh 3-0 up.

Robinson — who was part of the New Zealand team that won the Junior World Championship in 2009 in Tokyo — then turned creator as his long pass and a powerful break by Amanaki Lotoahea eventually saw Michael Broadhurst cross the chalk in the 33rd minute.

Robinson’s conversion from the touchline made it 10-0 and that’s how the teams turned around.

“It was a stalemate in the first half and it was all about who would crack first,” said Russell.

The start of the second half was just as tight, in part because as Russell pointed out, the Green Rockets “didn’t convert possession and pressure into points.”

Yosuke Morita eventually put them on the board in the 59th minute with a penalty.

But that sparked Robinson back into action and a behind-the-back pass from the New Zealander helped to create space out wide, allowing Hasegawa to go over in the corner.

Ricoh stretched further ahead in the 69th minute when Josh Mau finished off a powerful Pohiva Yamato Lotoahea, before Hasegawa put the result beyond doubt with a try nine minutes later.

Robinson added the extras to both efforts to finish the day with nine points.

“We are plugging away at our set piece and our attack is developing and you’ve got to give a lot of credit to our defense,” said Cockbain, a Rugby World Cup winner with the Wallabies in 1999.

This season the league has been split into two conferences, Red and White.

Teams play the seven other sides in their conference plus six from the other group to determine the rankings for the end of season playoffs, with the top four sides competing for the league title, which doubles as the All-Japan Championship.