The Japan Top League is renown for fast-paced rugby with lots of excitement for fans, as well as a healthy respect for traditions including players bowing to fans after each game.
It is rarely the type of league where extreme acts of foul of play occur, which makes this latest incident a very odd one for the Top League.
In the last round of the competition between Toyota Verblitz and the Honda Heat, Honda hooker Kienori Go was red-carded for attempting to kick an opposition player in the chest while he was pinned on the ground.
After the pair fell to the ground following a ruck, the Verblitz player uses Go as support, placing a hand on his chest to stop his own body falling of which the Honda hooker took exception to.
In a moment of chaos and pure illogical thought, Go tries to kick the opposition player in the chest, first with both feet and then again with a right-footed kick in a flurry of amygdala-driven panic. The mixed martial arts-style retaliation promptly stopped play on advice from the touch judge, who was right there overseeing the ruck.
After a review of the footage, the only acceptable outcome the ref could offer was a red card despite the protests of the Honda Heat captain.
The dangerous play didn’t overshadow a dominant performance from the Toyota Verblitz side boasting international stars Kieran Read, Michael Hooper, Willie le Roux and former Highlanders centre Rob Thompson.
The star-packed club rolled to a 45-3 victory, with Springbok fullback Le Roux snatching two tries and setting up another.
Wallabies captain Hooper also had a moment to remember, as he set up centre Thompson for a wonderful try.
He pounced on a loose pass, fended off the first tackle attempt and offered a one-handed offload sandwiched between the next two defenders to send his teammate away untouched.
In an interview with rugby.com.au earlier this month, Hooper spoke about the idea-sharing that is going on in the Verblitz changing room and compared the Top League’s growing popularity to that of the Indian Premier League in T20 cricket.
“Of all the times, once in a change room after a game was probably the only time we’ve [his international teammates] really met before. Other than that, you shake hands, walk off the field and fly halfway around the world to the next game,” Hooper told rugby.com.au.
“I’ve heard a lot of cricketers, when they speak about the IPL, say they are (finally) able to meet guys, chat with people, they’ve played against for a long time.
“It’s making that community of elite players closer and there’s a sharing of ideas.
“It hadn’t really dawned on me until coming up here where Kieran, myself, Willie and other players have been able to talk about anything and everything.”
The win capped off the third straight win to start the season for the Verblitz, who have become one of the form teams in the competition over the last two seasons after signing some quality internationals.
Former Waratahs forward coach Simon Cron is coach of the side, who Steve Hansen selected when he joined as director of rugby.
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