Sanyo claim Japan Top League title
January 30, 2011
Australian legend George Gregan's Suntory Sungoliaths side were beaten by Sanyo Wild Knights in the final © Getty Images
Sanyo Wild Knights claimed the Japan Top League title for the first time with a 28-23 victory over Suntory Sungoliaths in Tokyo in Sunday.
Beaten finalists for the last three years, Sanyo scored three second-half tries to overturn an 11-6 half-time deficit and avenge their defeat at the hands of Suntory at the same stage three years ago. Yu Young Nam, Akihito Yamada and Tadasuke Nishihara all touched down for Sanyo with Atsushi Tanabe adding three penalty goals and two conversions.
Yasunori Nagatomo crossed twice for Suntory with veteran George Gregan also crossing for only his second try in three years. Ryan Nicholas weighed in with two penalties and Peter Hewat added a conversion for Suntory but it was not enough to see off their rivals.
Played in front of 14,390 on a bitterly cold day at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground, Sanyo's victory was inspired by Nishihara whose introduction helped turn the tide up front. "We really wanted to win this year, more so than in the last three years when we lost," said Sanyo captain Seiichi Shimomura.
"We weren't good enough but definitely the breakdown changed in the second half," said Suntory coach Eddie Jones, whose focus will now switch to the Japan Cup. "The game can't change that abruptly without something happening."
Yamada was named MVP for the play-off tournament, the wing having also crossed in the semi-final win over Toyota Verblitz. But coach Hitoshi Iijima said it was a team effort. "This game was won by the 22 players in the squad and all the reserves," he said.
Sanyo: Atsushi Tanabe; Tomoki Kitagawa, Seiichi Shimomura (c), Sam Norton-Knight, Akihito Yamada; Tony Brown, Fumiaki Tanaka; Jungo Kikawa, Shota Horie, Tomokazu Soma, Daniel Heenan, Yuji Kitagawa, Yu Young-Nam, Daishi Wakamatsu, Koliniasi Ryu Holani
Replacements: Mitsugu Yamamoto, Naoki Kawamata, Justin Ives, Tadasuke Nishihara, Atsushi Takayasu, Masakazu Irie, Takashi Yoshida.
Suntory: Go Aruga; Yasunori Nagatomo, Koji Taira, Ryan Nicholas, Hirotoki Onozawa, Tusi Pisiata, Atsushi Hiwasa; Tateo Kanai, Yusuke Aoki, Kensuke Hatakeyama, Koji Shinozuka, Shinya Makabe, Todd Clever, Takamichi Sasaki, Juntaro Takemoto (c)
Replacements: Takashi Yamaoka, Akira Ozaki, Taichi Tahara, Masakatsu Nishikawa, George Gregan, Peter Hewat, Satoshi Oshima.
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