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