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Kieran Read's Toyota Verblitz book spot in Top League semi-final by toppling TJ Perenara's NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Kaz Photography/Getty Images)

A star-studded Toyota Verblitz side have qualified for the Top League semi-finals after they clinched a dramatic 33-29 quarter-final win over the NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes in Kumamoto on Saturday.

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Headlined by former All Blacks captain Kieran Read, Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper and Springboks fullback Willie le Roux, Toyota had to withstand five lead changes to secure their place in the competition’s final four.

A late brace to one-test Japan wing Jamie Henry ensured Toyota’s victory over an NTT Docomo side featuring All Blacks halfback TJ Perenara and Springboks wing Makazole Mapimpi.

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Crusaders assistant coach Tamati Ellison previews the Super Rugby Aotearoa final

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Crusaders assistant coach Tamati Ellison previews the Super Rugby Aotearoa final

Toyota then had to hold off a late onslaught from the visitors after being stretched defensively in a series of long passages of play then ended with a spillage from NTT Docomo midfielder Mifiposeti Paea inside the hosts’ 22.

Prior that, journeyman Toyota first-five Lionel Cronje traded shots at goal with ex-Highlanders cult hero Marty Banks, who failed to convert a first half try scored by former Crusaders and Chiefs fullback Tom Marshall.

NTT Docomo took a 15-11 lead into the half-time break, a lead they eventually retained via a try to South African-born Japanese international Wimpie van der Walt just two minutes after Read scored in the opening minute of the second stanza.

Marshall then set up Kouk Shigeno for a well-taken try in the right-hand corner to give NTT Docomo an eight-point buffer, but Henry’s nine-minute brace put Toyota into a lead that they held onto for the last nine minutes of the match.

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The defeat could spell the end of Perenara’s career in rugby union, for the time being at least, as the 69-test international looks likely to join the Sydney Roosters in the NRL for the remainder of the year.

Toyota will now face either the Canon Eagles or Panasonic Wild Knights in next week’s semi-final, while Beauden Barrett’s Suntory Sungoliath will square off against either the Kubota Spears or Kobelco Steelers in the other final four match-up.

Toyota Verblitz 33 (Tries to Taichi Takahashi, Kieran Read and Jamie Henry (2); 3 conversions and 3 penalties to Lionel Cronje; yellow card to Fetuani Lautaimi)
NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes 29 (Tries to Tom Marshall, Mifiposeti Paea, Wimpie van der Walt and Kouk Shigeno; 3 conversions and penalty to Marty Banks)

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Nickers 1 hours ago
'One of the poorest All Blacks performances I've seen in a long time'

Extreme hyperbole from Biggar. NZ have played far, far worse than that. The 20/21 team was by far the worst of the professional era. Losses to Argentina, shambolic game against Japan and hapless NH tour of 2021. But even that dreadful team were able to put 50 points on Wales and beat them by 38. Much easier to “tear them to pieces” from the commentary box apparently. Ignored by virtually everyone is how good the ABs defence was. That is why England didn’t win, they simply could not score enough points against that defence. The ABs attack was very average, but their defence was world class and that’s what won them the game. Any Wales team that Biggar has ever played for would have found themselves in the same situation and would definitely not have scored tries from those cross kicks. That ABs team beats Biggar’s best Wales team 31 - 13. England’s attack was as good as it was allowed to be by a superior defence. Hats off to Hansen, he has picked up where MacLeod finally got the ABs to last year and not missed a step. England’s attack will be a big worry for Borthwick. They have not established a reliable, repeatable way to break teams down and score points. They were held to some very low scores by average teams in the 6N, and again here didn’t cross 20 points on either occasion. If I was an England fan I would be crying out for a new attack coach. Borthwick would do well to cast his net now, a poor home winter with a faltering attack will start the calls for his job.

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T
Thomas 1 hours ago
'Champions get up when they can't': Matt Williams weighs in on Ireland's win over Boks

While both teams have their particular positives, I think neither team should rest on their laurels. South Africa managed to tie a series against an uncomfortable opponent, that has had their numbers for a couple of years, while trial-running a completely new attack system, that still doesn’t work properly. But one aspect of “it doesn’t work yet” is a transition from attack to defense in broken play, as the Boks leaked three tries in two matches this way, and lost the second match as a result. Ireland avoided a series loss in a hostile environment, and in spite of many key player injuries, while managing to significantly improve and tighten their defense in game 2 (which demonstrates the breadth of their squad as well as their ability to adjust and recalibrate). At the same time, their own attack hadn’t amounted to much, either (save from exploiting the gaps in the Boks’ new system, gaps that won’t be there anymore in a few months’ time), and they haven’t found an answer to the Boks scrum, which almost costed them the 2nd match, if it hadn’t been for pretty much unrepeatable Frawley heroics. In the end, there isn’t much that separates those two sides … which is exactly what we knew before the series already. Back to the drawing board for both teams, the work only just begins for two teams with the highest ambition. Start of a cycle alright.

16 Go to comments
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