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Japanese legend bows out in cruel fashion after TMO decision

Retiring Shota Horie of Panasonic Wild Knights applaud fans after interviewed following the team's 20-24 defeat in the NTT Japan Rugby League One Play-Off Final between Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights and Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo at National Stadium on May 26, 2024 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)

A forward pass from former Melbourne Rebels hooker Shota Horie that ruled out an 80th-minute try was a cruel end to the Japanese legend’s 16-year career as his Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights were beaten 24-20 by Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo in an epic Japan Rugby League One final.


Despite trailing for much of a match that see-sawed through the last 20 minutes on Sunday, the Wild Knights thought they had won it when winger Tomoki Osada crossed after a 15-phase build-up, only to have the try scrubbed on the advice of the TMO after he detected a pass from the 38-year-old Japan star that had floated forward in the build-up.

The drama meant former Wallabies coach Robbie Deans was denied his sixth Japanese title, against opponents prepared by his former Crusaders captain Todd Blackadder.

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It was the first title of Blackadder’s career after twice losing finals in dramatic circumstances during his time at the Crusaders.

Brave Lupus, whose only loss in the regular season had come against the Wild Knights, held out during a furious opening quarter in which they were totally dominated before taking the lead in controversial fashion when winger Jone Naikabula was awarded a try despite replays showing he had grounded the ball short of the goal-line.

The Brave Blossoms star, who scored twice and played a leading role in his side’s third try, won his personal battle against fellow Fijian, Marika Koroibete.

This included a crucial play when the Wallaby was yellow carded just before the break after he scragged Naikabula around the neck as he raced down the sideline.


Koroibete’s absence proved costly when Naikabula struck again, registering his 12th try of the season from a short-side break that caught out the short-staffed Wild Knights.

Brave Lupus appeared in control before two tries in three minutes by the Wild Knights turned the game on its head.

Their 20-17 advantage lasted seven minutes before a frantic attack by Brave Lupus saw Naikabula involved again, with another sideline dash setting up replacement midfielder Yuto Mori for the winning score.

Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath beat Yokohama Canon Eagles 40-33 in the third place playoff, while Wallabies star Quade Cooper’s Hanazono Kintetsu Liners were relegated to Division Two after a 35-30 loss to Samu Kerevi’s Urayasu D-Rocks on Friday night.


Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV


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1 Comment
JD Kiwi 27 days ago

Clearly House was wrong when he said it's never Lupus

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