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Israel Folau makes try-scoring return after 9 months out

By RugbyPass
Israel Folau - Getty Images

Dual-code international Israel Folau was a try-scorer on his return from a nine-month absence in Japan Rugby League One on Saturday.

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The former Wallaby, who scored 37 tries in 73 tests for Australia, and a Super Rugby record 60 tries from 96 appearances for the NSW Waratahs, took just four minutes to get back into try-scoring mode in Miyagi as his club, Urayasu D-Rocks, beat NEC Green Rockets Tokatsu 31-28 in the Division Two decider.

It was the 34-year-old’s first appearance since July 14 when he represented Tonga during a 27-21 win over Australia A in a non-cap international in Nuku’alofa.

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Israel Folau responds to rumours of move from Waratahs

Video Spacer

Israel Folau responds to rumours of move from Waratahs

Today’s three-point win for D-Rocks avenged their loss to the Green Rockets by an identical scoreline on the opening weekend of the competition.

That had been the first regular season defeat suffered by D-Rocks, a new club that was created last year, and has now won back-to-back Division Two titles under the helm of the ex-Lions (South Africa) and Gloucester coach Johan Ackerman.

Japan Rugby League One

Group Standings
P
W
L
D
PF
PA
PD
BP T
BP-7
BP
Total
1
Saitama Wild Knights
11
11
0
0
51
2
Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo
11
10
1
0
46
3
Tokyo Sungoliath
11
8
3
0
39
4
Kobelco Kobe Steelers
11
7
4
0
34
5
Yokohama Canon Eagles
11
7
4
0
33
6
Kubota Spears
11
5
6
0
26
7
Shizuoka BlueRevs
11
5
6
0
24
8
Toyota Verblitz
11
5
6
0
24
9
Mitsubishi Sagamihara Dynaboars
11
5
6
0
22
10
BlackRams Tokyo
11
2
9
0
13
11
Mie Honda Heat
11
1
10
0
5
12
Hanazono Kintetsu Liners
11
0
11
0
2
Conference B
P
W
L
D
PF
PA
PD
BP T
BP-7
BP
Total
1
Saitama Wild Knights
11
11
0
0
51
2
Yokohama Canon Eagles
11
7
4
0
33
3
Toyota Verblitz
11
5
6
0
24
4
Mitsubishi Sagamihara Dynaboars
11
5
6
0
22
5
BlackRams Tokyo
11
2
9
0
13
6
Hanazono Kintetsu Liners
11
0
11
0
2
Conference A
P
W
L
D
PF
PA
PD
BP T
BP-7
BP
Total
1
Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo
11
10
1
0
46
2
Tokyo Sungoliath
11
8
3
0
39
3
Kobelco Kobe Steelers
11
7
4
0
34
4
Kubota Spears
11
5
6
0
26
5
Shizuoka BlueRevs
11
5
6
0
24
6
Mie Honda Heat
11
1
10
0
5

Green Rockets, who were relegated from Division One last year during a tumultuous campaign which saw former Wallaby coach Michael Cheika dismissed as Director of Rugby, had lost just once before the final, after being taken over this season by the Six Nations-winning former Wales boss Wayne Pivac.

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Folau’s try gave D-Rocks the perfect start, and while they fell behind by 10 midway through the first half, had recovered to lead 22-18 at halftime.

Both sides scored three tries, and although held try-less in the second half, the steady boot of flyhalf Hikaru Tamura, who kicked 16 points, including the match-winning penalty goal, saw Urayasu home.

Former Maori All Black hooker Ash Dixon was a try-scorer for the Green Rockets, who also featured 72-cap Wallaby and ex-London Irish scrumhalf Nick Phipps.

Folau’s 50-minute return almost overshadowed the result after the former Brisbane and Melbourne rugby league star had taken Japan Rugby League One by storm when he arrived two seasons ago, scoring 10 tries in 12 matches for the then NTT Shining Arcs.

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Despite his impact, the star fullback could not prevent his side, who were coached by embattled Crusaders boss Rob Penney, from relegation.

Injury has blighted the code-hopper’s career since, wrecking his chances of appearing in France, after suffering a knee injury on his return to the international scene.

Rather than being a launch pad for a new career with his native country – having met the World Rugby ancestry requirements to switch from Australia – Folau’s debut for the Ikale Tahi has proved his only appearance to date, with the injury scratching him from the remainder of Tonga’s programme including the Rugby World Cup.

With Tonga still to appoint a new coach to succeed former Wallaby backrower Toutai Kefu, it is not known if Folau will make himself available for the new Pacific Nations Cup this year.

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