Springboks star Damian de Allende powers Wild Knights into JRLO final as All Black Shannon Frizzell seals Brave Lupus’ spot

Lawrence Nolan
Springboks centre Damian de Allende and All Blacks flanker Shannon Frizell.

Springboks centre Damian de Allende and All Blacks flanker Shannon Frizell.

The Japan Rugby League One finalists have been confirmed, with the Saitama Wild Knights and Toshiba Brave Lupus booking their places in the showpiece event.

A late try by Springboks centre Damian de Allende took the favourites Saitama Wild Knights to the final of the Japan Rugby League One with a 20-17 semi-final win over Yokohama Canon Eagles on Saturday.

Damian de Allende scores crucial try

The Wild Knights had gone the regular season undefeated and started the game in the same vein, running in two early tries from wing Koki Takayama and lock Jack Cornelsen for a 10-3 lead.

But the Eagles dominated for much of the middle 40 minutes, finally reaping the rewards with an early second-half try by Sione Halasili, then hitting the front on 54 minutes with a try from wing Masayoshi Takezawa.

But the departure of Japan international Halasili shortly after he scored was a turning point, with the breakdown thereafter dominated by the Wild Knights.

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De Allende’s winner on the hour mark owed much to Japan international fly-half Rikiya Matsuda, who broke up the centre of the park to gain the field position from which the two-time Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok scored. From the same movement, Eagles prop Tahoto Okabe was sin-binned for killing the ball in the build-up and there was no more comeback momentum from the Eagles.

The win continued the almost unbelievable record of Wild Knights coach Robbie Deans, who has now won 16 of the 18 professional club semi-finals that he has prepared teams for, nine of which have been during his time in Japan. It also added to the misery for the Eagles who, as well as exiting at the semi-final stage for the second consecutive season, fell to their 16th straight loss to the Wild Knights, prolonging a run that stretches back to 2013.

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Shannon Frizell sends Toshiba Brave Lupus through

The Wild Knights will play Toshiba Brave Lupus in the final, after they overcame Suntory Sungoliath 28-20 in Sunday’s semi-final in Tokyo.

Suntory led 10-7 at half-time after making much of the running in the first half, but a try by the outstanding Brave Lupus back-rower Takeshi Sasaki two minutes into the second period allowed Toshiba to take a lead they would not relinquish.

Another try from All Black back row Shannon Frizell – hotly contested as the ball appeared to slip from his grasp as he touched down – saw the Brave Lupus put daylight between themselves and Sungoliath, and it became 28-13 on the hour mark when Jone Naikabula, who came alive in the second period, linked with fellow winger Atsuki Kuwayama to race down the sideline unimpeded for Toshiba’s fourth try.

A try six minutes from time by the Brisbane-born second rower Harry Hockings closed the margin to eight points, but that was as good as it got for Sungoliath, who also lost a semi-final for the second year in a row.

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In the relegation play-offs from division two, Quade Cooper’s Hanazono Kintetsu Liners have it all to do in the return second leg after going down 21-12 at Urayasu D-Rocks. The D-Rocks had Samisoni Tua to thank for the killer try ten minutes from the end after he had replaced Wallaby international Samu Kerevi.

There ought to be no such trouble for either Mie Honda Heat or BlackRams Tokyo however, who both won their first leg matches comfortably, 57-39 over Toyota Industries Corporation Shuttles Aichi and 40-21 over Green Rockets Tokatsu respectively.

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