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All Blacks star bags a brace while Springboks World Cup-winner denied dramatic comeback victory in Top League

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

All Blacks halfback TJ Perenara headlined an array of international stars who played in the second round of the Top League over the weekend.


The 29-year-old, who is on a season-long sabbatical at the NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes from the Wellington-based Hurricanes in Super Rugby, bagged a brace of tries to steer his side to a 38-19 win over the NEC Green Rockets in Osaka.

Pairing up with three-test Welsh international Owen Williams in the halves, Perenara’s two second half tries came just four minutes apart to take their 24-19 lead to a 19-point buffer with nine minutes to play.

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Hurricanes vs Blues | Press Conference | Super Rugby Aotearoa

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Hurricanes vs Blues | Press Conference | Super Rugby Aotearoa

With three tries in his first two games for the club, Perenara has been a crucial figure for NTT Docomo, who now sit in third place in the White Conference standings with two wins from as may matches.

On the flip side of that result, NEC, featuring 21-test English pivot Alex Goode at No. 10, lie in seventh place in the same conference, with zero wins after losing last week’s match 47-38 to Kobelco Steelers.

The Steelers, equipped with a multitude of Kiwi talent, followed up on that victory with a comprehensive 73-10 thrashing of Canon Eagles, who were without Springboks midfielder Jesse Kriel.

All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick, also on sabbatical at Kobelco from the Chiefs, scored one of his side’s 11 tries, and was joined on the score sheet by compatriots Tom Franklin and Hayden Parker.


Former All Blacks outside back Ben Smith started on the wing, but it was No. 8 Taumua Naeata who stole the show, as the Tongan loose forward crashed over for five tries.

Former Stormers, Bulls and Sharks fullback SP Marais scored the only try for Canon, who also had ex-Highlanders cult hero Fumiaki Tanaka and former Chiefs and Highlanders lock Jesse Parete in their ranks.

As a result, Kobelco remain near the summit of the White Conference in second place, while Canon sit one point above NEC in sixth spot.

If Kobelco are to take the conference’s top spot, they will need Canon to defeat conference leaders Panasonic Wild Knights, a formidable task given how they performed on Sunday.


Featuring England lock George Kruis, Wales midfielder Hadleigh Parkes and Japan World Cup star Kenki Fukuoka, Panasonic put Hino Red Dolphins to the sword in Kumagaya, running out 60-12 victors.

Parkes managed to score one of his side’s nine tries as they picked up their second bonus point win on the trot, while Augustine Pulu’s Hino side are rooted to the bottom of the White Conference.

In the conference’s other match, World Cup-winning Springboks flanker Kwagga Smith was denied a dramatic late comeback as Yamaha Jubilo lost 23-22 to Ricoh Black Rams in Osaka.

Down 16-3 at half-time, Smith scored a try with four minutes to play to bring the score to within three points, while a Sam Greene conversion made it a one-point game.

However, Ricoh – led by Australian brothers Matt and Isaac Lucas in the halves, ex-Wallabies midfielder Joe Tomane and Kiwi pair Michael Broadhurst and Jacob Skeen – clung on to register a tightly-fought victory at Hanazono Rugby Stadium.

Had former Reds playmaker Greene converted Malo Tuitama’s second try with about 15 minutes to play, the only kick he missed of the afternoon, Yamaha may have run out winners themselves, but they remain one place above Ricoh in the White Conference.

In the Red Conference, All Blacks first-five Beauden Barrett maintained his undefeated start to life in the Top League as Suntory Sungoliath beat Honda Heat 31-14 in Suzuka.

The two-time World Rugby Player of the Year played a less influential role than last week, when Suntory romped to a 75-7 thrashing of Mitsubishi Dynaboars, but still did enough to keep his side atop of the Red Conference standings.

Former Wallabies midfielder Samu Kerevi scored a try and Brave Blossoms loose forward Hendrik Tui was explosive throughout, while ex-Blues and Highlanders wing Tevita Li was well-contained after his five-try showing in round one.

Honda’s two-match All Blacks fullback Matt Duffie was sent to the sin bin in his side’s defeat, which leaves them anchored to the bottom of the conference table.

Elsewhere, Springboks hooker Malcolm Marx and former Wallabies first-five Bernard Foley combined for 17 points in Kubota Spears’ 39-7 victory over Matt Todd’s, Michael Leitch’s and Seta Tamanivalu’s Toshiba Brave Lupus in Tokyo.

Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper came off the bench for Toyota Verblitz to help ex-All Blacks captain Kieran Read and Springboks fullback Willie le Roux defeat NTT Communications Shining Arcs 47-26.

Former Highlanders centre Rob Thompson scored a try in the fixture and was one of many former Super Rugby stars, including Male Sa’u (Blues), Lionel Cronje (Stormers, Brumbies, Sharks, Kings) and Michael Allardice (Chiefs), fielded by Toyota.

NTT Communications, meanwhile, had ex-Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw as their primary goal kicker, ahead of former Highlanders and Hurricanes first-five Fletcher Smith.

Former Wallabies flanker Liam Gill, ex-Blues and Crusaders lock Jimmy Tupou, former Lions speedster Sylvian Mahuza and one-time Sunwolves No. 8 Willie Britz were also involved for the Shining Arcs.

In the other match of the round, Kiwi quartet Colin Slade, Jackson Hemopo, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis and Matt Vaega helped Mitsubishi Dynaboars keep Munakata Sanix Blues scoreless in the second half to overturn a 10-point deficit and win 30-23.

Top League round two results

Kubota Spears 39 (Tries to Harumichi Tatekawa, Sur-yung Kim, Daisuke Inoue, Malcolm Marx and Finau Tupa; 3 conversions and 2 penalties to Bernard Foley, conversion to Gerhard van den Heever)
Toshiba Brave Lupus 7 (Try to Shohei Toyoshima; conversion to Toshiki Kuwayama)

Mitsubishi Dynaboars 30 (Tries to Matt Vaega (2) and Keita Sekimoto; 2 conversions and 3 penalties to Colin Slade, conversion to Yusho Takeda)
Munakata Sanix Blues 23 (Tries to Lomano Lemeki and Tim Bennetts; 2 conversions and 3 penalties to Koshei Ono)

NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes 38 (Tries to Hiroaki Ushihara, Kanta Yamamoto, Benjamin Saunders and TJ Perenara (2); 5 conversions and penalty to Owen Williams)
NEC Green Rockets 19 (Tries to Jack Lam, Ryoi Kamei and Yo Sato; 2 conversions to Alex Goode)

Ricoh Black Rams 23 (Tries to Taira Main and Hinata Takei; 2 conversions and 3 penalties to Matt Lucas)
Yamaha Jubilo 22 (Tries to Malo Tuitama (2) and Kwagga Smith; 2 conversions and penalty to Sam Greene)

Toyota Verblitz 47 (Tries to Taichi Takahashi, Rob Thompson, Yoshikatsu Hikosaka, Jamie Henry, Jyoji Sato, Kohei Yoshida and Takehito Namekawa; 3 conversions and 2 penalties to Lionel Cronje)
NTT Communications Shining Arcs 29 (Tries to Kai Ishii, Yongheung Chang, Willie Britz and Michael Toloke; 2 conversions and penalty to Greig Laidlaw, conversion to Fletcher Smith)

Kobelco Steelers 73 (Tries to Taumua Naeata (5), Tom Franklin (2), Kenta Tokuda, Hayden Parker, Brodie Retallick and Shinsuke Iseki; 7 conversions to Hayden Parker, 2 conversions to Seung-sin Lee)
Canon Eagles 10 (Try to SP Marais; conversion to Jumpei Ogura)

Suntory Sungoliath 31 (Tries to Samu Kerevi, Naoto Saito (2), Shota Emi and Kosuke Hirokoshi; 3 conversions to Beauden Barrett)
Honda Heat 14 (Try to Viliami Afu Kaipouli; 3 penalties to Song-gi Pak; yellow card to Matt Duffie)

Panasonic Wild Knights 60 (Tries to Hadleigh Parkes, Koki Takeyama (2), Takuya Yamasawa (2), Shota Fukui (2), Ryota Hasegawa and Ryuji Noguchi; 5 conversions and penalty to Yamasawa, conversion to Rikiya Matsuda)
Hino Red Dolphins 12 (Tries to Ash Parker and Norifumi Hashimoto; conversion to Gillies Kaka)

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Jon 1 hours ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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