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Damian McKenzie's Suntory overcome Kubota to stay top of League One

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Toru Hanai/Getty Images)

Damian McKenzie’s Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath have moved to the summit of the Japan Rugby League One standings after beating Kubota Spears Funabashi Bay Tokyo on Friday.

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McKenzie endured a mixed game in the top-of-the-table clash, providing 13 points off the boot in Suntory’s 33-29 win, but was sent to the sin bin and conceded a penalty try for a deliberate knock down right on the stroke of half-time.

In fact, it was another Kiwi who stole the show at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in the form of ex-Blues and Highlanders wing Tevita Li, who crossed for two first half tries and was subsequently awarded man-of-the-match.

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Li’s brace was complemented by further tries to prop Shintaro Isihara and wing Seiya Ozaki, while Wallabies loose forward Sean McMahon was a constant presence for the hosts in the No 8 jersey.

Ex-Wallabies playmaker Bernard Foley, meanwhile, started at first-five and successfully converted one of his two shots at goal before journeyman South African fullback Gerhard van den Heever assumed the kicking duties in the second half.

Aside from the penalty try conceded by McKenzie, Kubota’s tries came in the form of No 8 Faulua Makisi, centre Sione Teaupa and blindside flanker Finau Tupa, who bagged a late double scored within five minutes of each other.

Brave Blossoms head coach Jamie Joseph was spotted in the stands as Suntory leapfrogged Kubota to move two points clear of their title rivals on the Division One standings.

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Suntory will have the chance to extend their lead at the top of the competition when they return to Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium next Sunday to host the Shining Arcs Tokyo-Bay Urayasu.

Conversely, Kubota will look to reclaim their place at the top of Japanese domestic rugby when they they face Toshiba Brave Lupus at the same venue the day beforehand.

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Jon 8 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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