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Rugby: Yamaha come from behind to beat Kubota

Yamaha Jubilo picked up their second win of the 2018-2019 Japan Rugby Top League season Saturday as they came from behind to beat Kubota Spears 20-18 at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.

A much-improved second-half performance that saw them score 17 unanswered points earned Katsuyuki Kiyomiya’s team the win, though they needed some luck when a late penalty from Yamaha old boy Gerhard van den Heever hit the post.

«It feels a little like we lost,» said Kiyomiya. «We didn’t do well in the set piece and we were lucky with that last kick.»

Panasonic Wild Knights joined Yamaha at the top of the White Conference with nine points thanks to a 62-17 thrashing of Coca-Cola Red Sparks, while a try by Lomano Lava Lemeki in the 81st minute, converted by Pak Song Gi, saw Honda Heat draw 19-19 with Canon Eagles.

In the Red Conference, Toyota Industries Shuttles made it two straight wins with a 15-14 defeat of Hino Red Dolphins as they joined leaders Suntory Sungoliath on eight points, while Toyota Verblitz picked up their first victory of the campaign with a 29-5 defeat of NEC Green Rockets.

The Kobe Kobelco Steelers versus Munakata Sanix Blues game slated for Tsukisamu Rugby Ground in Hokkaido was called off as a result of Thursday’s earthquake.

(Ayumu Goromaru scores a penalty for Yamaha Jubilo)

This season, the league’s 16 teams have been split into two groups — Red and White. Following seven rounds of pool games the top four sides from each group will play for the league title, while the bottom eight sides will fight it out to determine the four teams that enter into the relegation/promotion playoffs with the top four teams from the Top Challenge League.

In the opening game of a doubleheader in Tokyo, the Spears (11th last season) played to their strengths, taking on Jubilo (third) up front and keeping things as tight as possible.

A penalty by Kazuhiro Goya saw them take the lead in the 14th minute before Hiroaki Sugimoto was pushed over by his pack nine minutes later.

Ayumu Goromaru and Goya then exchanged penalties before Kubota’s forward supremacy once again paid dividends as Takeo Suenaga scored following a textbook line-out and driving maul. Goya’s conversion from out wide made it 18-3 at the break.

«The forwards have worked really hard with forwards coach Alando Soakai to get the maul working and that was really good to see,» Kubota coach Frans Ludeke said of the two scores.

However, with Duane Vermeulen forced off the field at halftime with a hamstring injury, the Kubota pack lost a key figure and Yamaha made the most of the Springbok’s absence.

«Losing Duane was a real pity as he had contributed massively,» said Ludeke.

(Kubota Spears after losing to Yamaha Jubilo)

With the second half just two minutes old, Takeshi Hino and Duke Krishnan combined to put Fumihiro Yoshizawa away between the sticks before Uwe Helu scored Yamaha’s second try in the 63rd minute.

Goromaru added the extras to both to make it a one-point game and then kicked Yamaha into the lead in the 72nd minute with a penalty as Kubota got caught on the wrong side of the penalty count.

«Our discipline wasn’t good with regard to the penalties we gave away for offside,» said Kubota captain Harumichi Tatekawa, though he did add he thought some of the calls were a little tough.

Van den Heever could have won it for his new side in the 76th minute, but the Kubota fullback’s penalty from straight in front of the posts hit the woodwork and went wide. And Yamaha held on the rest of the way.

«I just told the players to do the simple things such as jump in the line-out rather than point out any of the things they did wrong,» Kiyomiya said of his halftime talk that preceded his team’s turnaround.

All — Kyodo News+

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