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Damian McKenzie guides Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath to Japan Rugby League One final

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Kenta Harada/Getty Images)

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Damian McKenzie will compete for a Japan Rugby League One title next weekend after helping guide Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath to a semi-final win over Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo.

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McKenzie provided 15 points from the boot to propel Suntory to a 30-24 victory over their Tokyo rivals at Hanazono Rugby Stadium in Osaka.

In doing so, the 40-test All Black has ensured Suntory will challenge for their first championship since 2018 after falling short against the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knight in last year’s Top League final.

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Suntory may have the chance to avenge for that 31-26 defeat should the Wild Knights beat the Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay in the second semi-final on Sunday.

McKenzie will be heavily relied upon to help Suntory clinch the inaugural League one title, as he was in Saturday’s semi-final as he popped up on numerous occasions to provide his side with some fine playmaking touches.

That helped enable left wing Seiya Ozaki, loosehead prop Shintaro Ishihara and second-five Ryoto Nakamura to cross for Suntory’s three tries, all of which McKenzie converted as he added a further three penalties.

McKenzie was accompanied in his side’s victory by Wallabies star and 2021 World Rugby Player of the Year nominee Samu Kerevi, who started at centre, while former Reds locks Harry Hocking and Hendrick Tui both packed down in the second row.

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Former All Blacks flanker Matt Todd and ex-Japan captain Michael Leitch both started in Toshiba’s loose forward trio, and ex-All Blacks centre Seta Tamanivalu started on the left wing.

Kiwi-born Japan lock Warner Dearns and former Blues lock Jacob Pierce were in the second row, while former Hurricanes and Crusaders veteran Tim Bateman started at second-five.

Of those sextet, Pierce was the only player to cross the chalk for a try, while halfback Takahiro Ogawa scored a brace as first-five Hayato Nakao added three conversions and a penalty.

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