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Israel Folau shines in latest Japan League One action while Ngani Laumape kept in check

By Ben Smith
(Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)

It was a big weekend for overseas stars in the Japan Rugby League One as ex-pat stars helped guide their clubs to wins.

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In the biggest clash of the weekend between two of the heavyweight clubs, Tokyo Sungoliath and Kobelco Kobe Steelers, the Sungoliath came out on top with a dominant win 39-19.

Former All Black Ngani Laumape, who has been in blistering form in his first season in Japan, was kept largely in check by the Sungoliath defence.

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Kobelco managed four penalties to narrow Sungoliath’s lead to 17-12 but a yellow card to former Blues lock Gerard Cowley Tuioti gave the Tokyo club a one-man advantage which they used to score from a trick lineout play.

A penalty try from a rolling maul essentially sealed the game with a 34-12 lead with less than 10 minutes remaining.

Former Crusaders prodigy and Canterbury product Isaiah Punivai made his debut for the Sungoliath late in the game.

The Springbok-laden Yokohama Canon Eagles continued their rise with a 74-5 hammering of the Hanazono Kintetsu Liners.

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Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk was involved in running a set-piece play to put winger Viriame Takayawa through defence, who linked with Japanese international No 8 Amanaki Mafi for the second try of the game.

Japan’s flyhalf Yu Tumara scored a stunning try after originally threading a grubber kick in behind for Takayawa. The winger combined with Springboks centre Jesse Kriel to keep the ball alive and some smart handling saw Tumara dive over with the last pass.

De Klerk had a long break early in the second half which finished in a try to SP Marias on the next phase as Canon spun the ball to the left.

Jesse Kriel got in on the try-scoring action after fielding a chip kick in behind the defence, while Marias and Mafi grabbed their doubles as the rout continued in the second half.

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Former Wallabies fullback Israel Folau put in a man-of-the-match performance for Urayasu D-Rocks as they comfortably dispatched Toyota Industries Shuttles Aichi by 55-16 in division two.

Former Blues playmaker Otere Black scored a well deserved try on a scything run through the Shuttles defence early in the first half to build a solid lead. The No 10 had a try assist late in the first half when he put his scrumhalf over by going up the middle next to a ruck.

Folau burst into the game in the second half when he broke upfield following a scrum play that gave the No 15 some early ball on the flank. The fullback calmly drew the last defender to put his winger over in the corner.

The Tongan international then had one himself after backing up on the inside after two brilliant offloads from the D-Rocks.

The upset of the day came from the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Sagamihara Dynaboars who were able to knock off one of the hottest teams this season, the Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo.

The Brave Lupus, featuring ex-All Blacks Matt Todd and Seta Tamanivalu and Brave Blossoms captain Michael Leitch, raced out to a 12-0 lead and looked to be in for a comfortable victory.

After a hat-trick last week, Fijian-born winger Jone Naikabura continued his blistering pace with another try for the Brave Lupus breaking away from a set-piece.

However, the Dynabours overcame a 12-0 deficit to take the lead at halftime 14-12 and went on to claim a 23-19 victory after three second half penalty goals.

In other division one action, Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay put up a big 40-7 win over the Green Rockets despite missing Springboks hooker Malcolm Marx and with Wallaby flyhalf Bernard Foley on the bench.

Former All Blacks centre Ryan Crotty bagged a try when a wayward Green Rockets pass found him just metres out from the try line. He was able to scoop up and dive over in one motion for one of the easier scores of his career.

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