KOBE – Dan Carter kicked 15 points as Kobe Kobelco Steelers, the Japan Top League defending champions, won a scintillating rematch with last season’s runners-up Suntory Sungoliath 35-29 on Sunday.
Tries by Ryohei Yamanaka, Tom Franklin, Fraser Anderson and Richard Buckman allowed the champions to overcome an intense challenge from Sungoliath before 26,312 at Kobe’s Noevir Stadium.
A Steelers’ defensive lapse put Suntory on the board first as Hikaru Tamura froze Buckman with a dummy and ran behind him for a soft fourth-minute try he converted himself.
Tamura also kicked three penalties to finish with 16 points.
Matt Giteau, who took over for Tamura in the 62nd minute, kicked a penalty after the whistle to give Sungoliath a bonus point in a thoroughly entertaining contest that was a far cry from the 55-5 drubbing Suntory suffered in last season’s final.
Steelers, undefeated in three games, are second with 13 points behind Panasonic Wild Knights, who have three bonus-point wins. Toshiba Brave Lupus also have 13 points. Sungoliath have one win and two bonus-point losses.
Also on Sunday, Canon Eagles ran in four first-half tries in a 38-12 win over NEC Green Rockets, who remain winless after three games.