Aaron Smith and Steve Hansen’s Toyota Verblitz stunned by Robbie Deans’ Saitama Wild Knights while Kwagga Smith crosses twice for Shizuoka BlueRevs

Lawrence Nolan
Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights head coach Robbie Deans looking on.

Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights head coach Robbie Deans looking on.

A faintly ridiculous 35-point second-half comeback from Robbie Deans’ Saitama Wild Knights kept them top of the Japan Rugby League One division one at the weekend.

Down 27-8 at the break after a hat-trick of tries from Toyota Verblitz’s left wing Viliame Tuidraki and another from All Blacks legend Aaron Smith, the Wild Knights’ perfect start to the season looked under significant threat.

But Verblitz inexplicably fell off the pace as the game wore on and tries from number eight Jack Cornelsen, wing Tomoki Osada, scrum-half Taiki Koyama, centre Dylan Riley and replacement flanker Itsuki Onishi, all converted by the dependable Rikiya Matsuda, took the Wild Knights to an epic 43-27 win, leaving Verblitz head coach Steve Hansen dumbfounded.

Richie Mo’unga stands out

Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo kept up the chase at the top with a rather more workmanlike 24-20 win over defending champions Kubota Spears. The Brave Lupus had the boot of All Blacks fly-half Richie Mo’unga to thank for their win; he landed three conversions and a penalty, but also was shown a late yellow card for a dangerous tackle.

The Spears’ narrow defeat may not have been the result they wanted but showed an improvement on previous weeks and also featured maiden tries for veteran hooker Dane Coles and Wales full-back Liam Williams.

Tokyo Sungoliath kept in touch with the top two, with a maiden try for Cheslin Kolbe helping them to a comeback 44-36 win at home to the Kobelco Kobe Steelers. Kolbe’s try, just after the hour, turned the game irretrievably in favour of the home side, who had trailed 26-13 and been a man down just before the break after a yellow card for centre Taiga Ozaki.

Sungoliath fly-half Mikiya Takamoto, with a point to prove as Nicolas Sanchez prepares to take his club bow, kicked 100 per cent, ultimately the difference between the teams as Steelers fly-half Bryn Gatland had an off-day from the tee. The latter’s profligacy also cost the Steelers a bonus point, as he missed conversions of tries from All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick and Shintaro Hayashi late on; had either landed, the Steelers would have lost by only six.

Faf de Klerk’s Yokohama Canon Eagles also kept in distant touch with the top trio with their third win and first bonus point of the season, with a 40-35 victory away at Mitsubishi Sagamihara Dynaboars.

In another come-from-behind win, the Eagles were down 22-3 after a quarter of the game, with the Dynaboars’ wings Ben Paltridge and Honeti Taumohaapai sharing three tries and fly-half Matt Toomua landing two conversions and a penalty. But Eagles wing Inoke Burua got a brace of his own and full-back Junpei Ogura also scored to make it 22-20 at the break and a brace from the Eagles’ other wing, Viliame Takayawa, took them clear in the second half.

Double from Kwagga Smith

Shizuoka BlueRevs inched into the top half of the table with a 62-13 win at Mie Honda Heat, who are sorely missing the influence of Pablo Matera. The BlueRevs’ 10 tries included a brace from Kwagga Smith.

Finally, as reported earlier, Quade Cooper’s yellow card – or more precisely, the three tries his Hanazono Kintetsu Liners leaked while he was off the pitch – saw Tokyo Black Rams pick up a first win of the season, 41-14.

READ MORE: Quade Cooper endures disastrous first game since controversial Rugby World Cup omission