WELLINGTON, New Zealand ( Associated Press) – Australian-born center Dylan Riley made a decisive effort in the 73rd minute on Sunday as the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights defeated Suntori Sungoliath 18-12 in the opening final of Japan Rugby League One at the National Stadium in Tokyo. defeated by
The 25-year-old Japan international, born in Australia’s Gold Coast, crossed the line at the end of a tense final to give the Wild Knights breathing room; They remained on to defend their position as the leading club in the Japan domestic league.
Riley is fast becoming Suntory’s nemesis. Their five points on Sunday added up to an intercept attempt scored in last year’s top league final, which set the Wild Knights on their way to a 31-26 win over Suntory.
The acquisition and development of Riley, a former Australian Under-20 player, represents a clever bit of recruitment by Wild Knights coach Robbie Deans, who coached the Wallabies between 2008 and 2013.
Renowned for his ability to recognize and develop raw talent, Dean brought Riley, Lockie Jack Cornelson and Ben Gunter to the club, out of relative oblivion within the Australian development system, turning them into two-time Japan club title-winners. Gave.
All three players made their Test debuts for Japan last year.
Today’s title was Dean’s fifth with the Wild Knights, matching his five Super Rugby crowns with the Christchurch-based Crusaders. He also won the Tri-Nation title and the Bledisloe Cup as coaching coordinator for the All Blacks and Australia’s first Tri-Nation title as head coach of the Wallabies for a decade.
Along with Riley, wallaby winger Marika Koroibet, whom Dean brought to the club this year, was Saitama’s star.
After being set up by a snappy play from Riley and Wild Knights fullback Ryuji Noguchi, Koroibet’s consistently barging runs were topped by his effortless run in the game’s opening attempt.
Suntory was kept in the game by the precise boot of All Black Damien Mackenzie, whose fourth penalty goal in the 66th minute put his side within a point of the Wild Knights.
While his opposite goal-kicker, Takuya Yamasawa, missed three of his six attempts on goal, the Saitama flyhalf was involved in the crucial moment of the match when he knocked the ball out of McKenzie’s fist as the Suntory fullback dived for the goal-line. Had been. half the time.
The ball spilled free, and with it Suntory’s title hopes were gone as they were unable to break through the well-organized Wild Knights defense through the second half of the game played in an energy-saving 31°C.
This weekend saw the end of the promotion/relegation series, with former wallaby Israel Folau’s NTT Communications Shining Arcs ending a disastrous season with relegation, while Michael Cheeka’s NEC Green Rockets wrapped up their series with the Honda Heat. Retained his top-tier status after tying up.
Mitsubishi Dynaboors will replace Shining Arcs in the top division next year.
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