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.
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.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 1, 2021
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.
Relaxed though he may be, Lachlan Boshier knows the beating that his body will have to take in order to get the job done for the Chiefs in Super Rugby Aotearoa. #SuperRugbyAotearoa https://t.co/teN7tL6ytJ
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 1, 2021
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.
Super Rugby Aotearoa is back up and running, with the Crusaders and Blues both picking up wins in the first round of the competition. But, which five players from the opening weekend stood out the most? #SuperRugbyAotearoa https://t.co/qWBoIsyuMz
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 1, 2021
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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