Suntory Sungoliath were crowned Top League 2016/2017 winners on Saturday after defeating Kobe Kobelco Steelers at NOEVIR Stadium.
This was Suntory’s seventh Top League title and their first since 2013, and they outscored their hosts by three tries to two in Kobe with George Smith starring for the visitors.
Former Springbok lock Andries Becker opened the scoring with a try in the ninth minute, with Ryohei Yamanaka unable to convert but soon after knocking over a penalty to give the Steelers an 8-0 lead.
Suntory however responded through tries from Hendrik Tui and winger Shota Emi, both converted by Kosei Ono, to take a 14-8 lead into half-time.
Japan full-back Kotaro Matsushima then widened the gap on the scoreboard with Suntory’s third try three minutes into the second half, leaving Kobe with a mountain to climb.
Yamanaka responded by scoring and converting his own try shortly before Suntory were reduced to 14 men after Emi was shown a yellow card by referee Shuhei Kubo.
Ono however steadied the ship, missing one penalty but scoring two to keep Suntory out of reach at 15-24 and then 15-27, putting the seal on another Top League title win.
For Kobe Steelers:
Tries: Becker, Yamanaka
Tries: Tui, Emi, Matsushima
Cons: Ono 3
Pens: Ono 2
Yellow Card: Emi
Kobe Steelers: 15 Hideki Tanabe, 14 Fraser Anderson, 13 Toni Vaihu, 12 Ryohei Yamanaka, 11 Yuta Imamura, 10 Nicholas Ealey, 9 Andrew Ellis, 8 Itaru Taniguchi, 7 Daiki Hashimoto (c), 6 Ryuta Yasui, 5 Andries Becker, 4 Jang Seokhwan, 3 Masanobu Yamauchi, 2 Takeshi Kizu, 1 Motoki Yamazaki
Replacements: 16 Tateo Kanai, 17 Raiko Katsuki, 18 Masahiko Nakagawa, 19 Shoji Ito, 20 Yu Shimizu, 21 Ryang Jongchu, 22 Jaque Fourie, 23 Kenji Shomen
Suntory Sungoliath: 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Takaaki Nakaduru, 13 Daishi Murata, 12 Derek Carpenter, 11 Shota Emi, 10 Kosei Ono, 9 Yutaka Nagare (c), 8 Juntaro Takemoto, 7 George Smith, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Shinya Makabe, 4 Joe Wheeler, 3 Genki Sudo, 2 Yusuke Aoki, 1 Shintaro Ishihara
Replacements: 16 Shunta Nakamura, 17 Yukio Morikawa, 18 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 19 Koji Shinozuka, 20 Naoki Ozawa, 21 Atsushi Hiwasa, 22 Ryoto Nakamura, 23 Kenta Tsukamoto
Referee: Shuhei Kubo