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All Black Richie Mo'unga makes statement on return from bereavement

New Zealand rugby player Richie Mo'unga speaks during a press conference hosted by the Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo in Fuchu, Tokyo Metropolis, on November 21, 2023. (Photo by Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP) (Photo by KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images)

Richie Mo’unga announced his return from bereavement leave by scoring 19 points as Toshiba Brave Lupus outclassed Shizuoka Blue Revs 59-20 in the final round of Japan Rugby League One.

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The All Black flyhalf’s haul included a try – among nine scored by Brave Lupus yesterday – in what was an emphatic statement in the lead-up to a semi-final against arch-rivals Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath on May 19.

Brave Lupus outclassed Shizuoka Blue Revs 59-20 in the final round of Japan Rugby League One.

The All Black flyhalf’s haul included a try – among nine scored by Brave Lupus yesterday – in what was an emphatic statement in the lead-up to a semi-final against arch-rivals Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath on May 19.

Brave Lupus have twice beaten Sungoliath already this season and will fancy their chances to notch a hattrick against an opponent who have stumbled into the playoffs after going winless through the last three rounds.

The regular season of the competition concluded in Tokyo today, being played over three days during Japan’s Golden Week holiday celebrations.

Today’s only match saw Urayasu D-Rocks set up a replay against Hanazono Kintetsu Liners from last year’s two-legged promotion/relegation series, known as the Replacement Battle, when they overpowered NEC Green Rockets Tokatsu 48-28.

The Division Two champions were convincingly beaten by Kintetsu in both legs last term.

D-Rocks’ win came at a cost, with dual code star Israel Folau, who was playing just his second game of the campaign, and only his sixth in the last two seasons, exiting after 14 minutes due to injury.

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Fixture
Japan Rugby League One
Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo
28 - 20
Full-time
Tokyo Sungoliath
All Stats and Data

Despite losing both of their matches in Division Two’s Placement round, Green Rockets, who are coached by the Six Nations-winning ex-Wales boss Wayne Pivac, will play in the promotion series, facing the 10th-placed Ricoh Black Rams Tokyo of Division One.

Black Rams were well beaten in their dress rehearsal for the series yesterday, crashing to a 45-18 defeat against Toyota Verblitz, with the scoreline blowing out in the final 30 minutes after a try by ex-England backrower Nathan Hughes had given Ricoh a 13-12 lead.

Two of Toyota’s seven tries were scored by Aaron Smith.

The All Black scrumhalf remarkably scored in consecutive plays, with the second coming straight from the kick-off following his first try.

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Such was the speed of the action, it even eclipsed that of Smith’s ex-Wallaby counterpart Nick Phipps, who scored twice in two minutes for Green Rockets.

Sunday’s other match from Division One saw Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Sagamihara Dynaboars sign off from an encouraging campaign with a sixth win after downing Kintetsu 46-36.

Former Wallaby Quade Cooper, who will the key man for his side in the Replacement Battle, scored his second try of the season in his team’s loss, but his performance was overshadowed by opposite number James Grayson, who collected 21 points, which also included a try.

The Englishman, who switched to Japan from Northampton, ended a succesful maiden season as the league’s fourth highest point-scorer with 148.

Saturday saw wins for Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights, Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay and Kobelco Kobe Steelers in Division One.

Mie Honda Heat, who were narrowly beaten by Kobe, will play Toyota Industries Shuttles Aichi in the third of the Division One/Two Replacement Battles, which start on May 18.

Hino Red Dolphins had already been crowned in Division Three, but the champions were denied an unbeaten season by Shimizu Corporation Koto Blue Sharks yesterday, falling 38-26 despite the Sharks twice being reduced to 14-men by yellow cards.

One of those was shown to the Sharks’ dual international flyhalf Lima Sopoaga, but his side overcame the disadvantage, fighting back from a 26-0 deficit after 30 minutes to win the game.

Kurita Water Gush Akishima beat Mazda SkyActivs Hiroshima 38-33 in the other match from the division, earning a shot at promotion through a Replacement Battle against Division Two’s bottom side, Japan Steel Kamaishi Seawaves.

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4 Comments
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Graham 69 days ago

Great comeback to the playing field by Richie Mo’unga after the loss of his father. A great performance by Richie . I know him well and he is a great guy. On and off the field one of the greatest for the Crusaders. Scott Robertson would have loved him in his All Black’s side. A very missed player and person.

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Michael 1 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Cant deny Christie is a good defender, box kicks well at times, BUT he’s a second too slow passing from the ground. Roigard, Ratima and Hotham will be our 2027 halfbacks I believe DMAC has played reasonably well in both games, so deserves to keep his place - his two breaks at Eden Park should have resulted in tries. Reece was really to blame for the Taylor failure - he stayed too wide, if he had come in a couple of meters the pass from Taylor would have worked. The Perofeta failure was extraordinary, he is normally such a good distributor, failure to draw in Steward was remarkable, failure to look inside was a shocker. Cory Flynn as lineout coach… umm something a miss here. Not sure who is calling the lineouts, but clearly we miss Whitelock’s leadership. Having a disfunctional line out really underminded the AB attack. But let’s remind ourselves Itoje is a master, and their tactics of going for the arms of the jumper on landing and pulling over was brilliant causing Paddy and Scooter to both fumble the balls. I am a Blues supporter so I like Talea, but if you play him on the wrong wing look out. While he’s not the fastest wing, he’s elusive and very industrious always looking for work. However, he’s not the tallest player, and everyone knows his weakness (a) being turned in defence - he’s slow to turn and react and (b) never jumps for high balls is normally out jumped. Personally, I find Recce and Talea too alike - Razor needs to couple them with another complementary partner Clark and Narawa respectively. However, for me the real troubling challenge is our mid-field. I am sorry Barrett & Ioane are a poor combo - either Barrett & Proctor or ALB & Ioane - but having two mid-fielders who are poor distributors is nuts. Jordie had a forgettable game in truth he missed so many tackles, which to be fair is unlike him. But sadly both Barrett and Ioane chose to bash first and rarely distribute cleanly.

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