The title defence of Wallaby Bernard Foley’s Kubota Spears Tokyo Bay in Japan’s club rugby has got off to the worst possible start in a 52-26 thrashing from Tokyo Sungoliath.
Despite beating Sungoliath three times last season en route to a maiden League One title, the Spears were blown off the park in the first half on Sunday, which ended with Sungoliath ahead 35-7.
Last year’s leading try-scorer, Sungoliath winger Seiya Ozaki, bagged a first half hat-trick, while his younger brother, centre Taiga, later scored twice, as the family contributed five of the eight tries.
South African Frans Ludeke, who coaches the Spears, is vying with former Australian coach Eddie Jones, who is a consultant at Sungoliath, for the vacant Japan position, with both reportedly interviewed for the role last week.
It was reported over the weekend that Jones had won out over Ludeke, who took the Bulls to consecutive Super Rugby titles in 2009 and 2010, for the role and will be appointed later this week. Jones oversaw the Brave Blossoms’ 2015 World Cup campaign, before spending seven years at England via a brief week’s stint at the Stormers.
Both men were in deck in Tokyo for the Japanese League One opener, with Jones seen on the field talking with All Blacks skipper Sam Cane.
Saitama Wild Knights, who the Spears edged by two points in last year’s championship game, also scored eight tries as they outclassed last season’s third-placed getter, Yokohama Eagles, 53-12, at Kumagaya.
Former Waikato Chiefs flanker Lachlan Boshier scored twice for the Robbie Deans-coached Wild Knights while the Australian-born Japanese representatives, centre Dylan Riley and flanker Ben Gunter, also scored tries.
Such was the Wild Knights’ dominance, the former Australia mentor did not require Wallaby winger Marika Koroibete, who watched on as an unused substitute.
Another former Wallaby coach made a spectacular start to his time in Japan yesterday as Dave Rennie’s Kobelco Kobe Steelers swamped newly promoted Mie Honda Heat in an 80-15 victory.
Rennie’s men scored 12 tries, eight in the second period, with new Kobe skipper Brodie Retallick and former international Ardie Savea grabbing two each, while their All Black colleague Ardie Savea also scored in the rout.
Heat featured the former Wallaby Tom Banks.
Banks’ former Australian teammate Will Genia was a try-scorer at Kanagawa, but it wasn’t enough as Hanazono Liners were denied by a last-minute goal from Englishman James Grayson in a 30-29 loss to a Mitsubishi Sagamihara Dynaboars side that had ex-Wallaby centre Curtis Rona amongst its try-scorers.
Kintetsu were without Wallaby star Quade Cooper.
In Division One, Aussie Peter Hewat’s Ricoh Black Rams Tokyo fell 15-8 to a star-studded Toyota Verblitz line-up featuring All Blacks Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett.
Wallaby Samu Kerevi’s debut for new club Urayasu D-Rocks didn’t go to plan as last year’s runaway Division Two champions were trumped 31-28 by ex-Wales coach Wayne Pivac’s NEC Green Rockets Tokatsu. Aussies Nick Phipps (Dynaboars) and Liam Gill (Urayasu) scored tries.
Queenslander Matt Cockbain’s Red Hurricanes Osaka beat fellow promoted side Kyuden Voltex 26-22.