Since joining the Japan Top League giants Suntory Sungoliath, Beauden Barrett and his star-studded side has coasted to massive wins on the way to a perfect record atop their conference.
They have scored 42 tries and conceded just 7 in piling up a huge for and against, as they put opposition to the sword with cricket scores.
After beating Mitsubishi 75-7, they took care of Honda 31-14, Sanix 75-10, and then former heavyweight Toshiba by 73-5.
Last weekend’s clash with the Toyota Verblitz was the first test for Suntory against another undefeated side and promised to deliver an enthralling contest with the likes of Willie le Roux, Michael Hooper and Kieran Read in the side.
All Black flyhalf Beauden Barrett lined up at 10 for Suntory as his side looked to keep their unbeaten streak alive, but it wasn’t smooth sailing as Toyota put the star recruit under pressure.
Barrett was targetted from Toyota’s first set-piece play with right wing Taichi Takahashi taking a carry at first receiver in order to clatter into the first five’s channel. After high contact, the referee awarded a penalty for Toyota’s first three points.
Nursing a small lead at 12-6, a botch up between second five Ryoto Nakamura and Beauden Barrett caused a set-piece play to break down. The loose pass was hacked ahead and a phase later Toyota scored under the bar to take the lead.
Trying to make amends for the set-piece error, Barrett tried to pressure Toyota as they were attacking deep inside Suntory’s half.
Rushing out of the line to try pull an intercept, he was given the cold shoulder by nearby loosehead prop Shogo Miura, knocking the All Black clean off his feet to prevent him getting near the ball.
Barrett landed awkwardly on his back and could only look on as Willie Le Roux put a deft chip kick over Suntory’s line which was grasped by inside centre Male Sa’u for another Toyota try.
The referees missed the strong-armed tactic on Barrett and allowed the try to stand, making it 21-12 in Toyota’s favour.
In desperate need of some points, starring down the barrel at 26-12, Barrett went to his old bag of tricks to pull out his famed cross-field kick.
Knocking on Toyota’s goal line, Barrett quickly received service from Yukata Nagare in order to take advantage of a weak edge defence out wide.
With a 4-on-2 overlap, Barrett opted to chip kick the ball into the arms of former Highlander Tevita Li, who had the easiest of jobs to do once taking in the cross-kick.
With a sliver of hope, Suntory began to turn it up a notch in their bid to stay undefeated.
Barrett was involved twice in some nice passing in the lead-up to a long range try to Suntory winger Shogo Nakano, orchestrating the plans to cut the deficit to 26-24.
Tevita Li’s second try finally arrested the lead back for the Sungoliath heading into the final fifteen minutes, before another one to flanker Hendrik Tui gave Suntory what looked like the key advantage.
A desperate Toyota were running out of time to close the seven point deficit, but had an opportunity five metres out. From the scrum, they tried to beat Barrett one-on-one but could not break the defence of the two-time World Player of the Year.
Although it would be on the next phase where Suntory would leak the try that would tie the game up at 36-all.
With just 35 seconds remaining, Suntory were gifted a get-out-of-jail free card when Toyota were penalised for holding on about 40-metres out.
Barrett stepped up to the plate to kick the match-winning penalty, giving the All Black the last laugh as they took the spoils by 39-36.
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