Richie Mo’unga gets the better of Beauden Barrett in All Blacks playmaker battle

Jared Wright
Tokyo, Japan. Credit: MATSUO. 14th Jan, 2024. Richie Mounga (Brave Lupus) Rugby : 2023-24 Japan Rugby League One match.

Tokyo, Japan. Credit: MATSUO. 14th Jan, 2024. Richie Mounga (Brave Lupus) Rugby : 2023-24 Japan Rugby League One match.

Richie Mo’unga guided Toshiba Brave Lupus to a 12-28 victory over Beauden Barrett’s Toyota Verblitz in the Japanese Rugby League One on Sunday.

It was the first time the two pivots faced off since leaving New Zealand, and it was Mo’unga who came out on top after Barrett was forced off the field through injury.

Barrett’s injury leads to Verblitz’s collapse

Verblitz shot into a 7-0 lead in the opening stages of the match, with Barrett converting Taichi Takahashi’s opening try in the seventh minute.

However, Barrett would not last much longer as he was forced off the pitch due to injury and almost immediately afterwards, Brave Lupus took control of the match.

Mo’unga cut the lead with a penalty just a minute after Barrett’s departure with Takahiro Ogawa’s score giving Brave Lupus a 7-10 lead at half time.

The former Crusaders fly-half kept the scoreboard ticking over with two penalties in the second half before Takahashi hit back for Verblitz dotting down for his second try.

Ultimately, that would be ex-All Blacks boss Sir Steve Hansen’s side’s final contribution to the scoreline.

Shannon Frizell extended Toshiba’s lead when he bundled over the line from an intelligent tap and go five metres from the line. Mo’unga put the finishing touches on the result when he set up a stunning score for Yuto Mori.

Stellar try assist

The playmaker attempted a drop goal from a goal-line dropout, and while he missed with his shot, it led to a fantastic try. The two sides traded kicks before Mo’unga took on the defence when Verblitz failed to find touch.

He fended off the attempted tackle from Charlie Lawrence before sprinting into the 22 before throwing a wide pass out to Mori to score.

Mo’unga missed the conversion, but by then, the result was secured for Todd Blackadder’s side. He finished the match with 13 points, over 140 running metres, made three clean breaks and assisted a try.

The win keeps Brave Lupus hot on the heels of the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights, with two points separating first and second on the championship table.

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