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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)

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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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