Friday, March 4, 2011

Todd Clever´s Suntory Sungoliath All Japan Rugby Championship Final ラグビー

USA Eagles backrower and captain, Todd Clever has finished his first season of professional rugby in Japan as a champion after his side Suntory Sungoliath won the 48th All Japan Rugby Championship Final ラグビー vs the Sanyo Wild Knights at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo on Sunday. The result is a reverse of the 2011 Japan Top League Final which the Sanyo Wild Knights won by defeating Suntory Sungoliath. This time around, Suntory controlled the game to get a good early lead before the Wild Knights fought back to close the gap to 29-20 midway through the secondhalf. The Wild Knights, however, would not score again and Clever´s side went on to win the title with a 37-20 victory.  Todd Clever comented on his facebook page that "It was fantastic to win this final. We will celebrate tonight!"

Clever played backrow in the number six shirt and was highly visible around the park as he completed a heavy workload. His side scored five tries with left winger and Japanese international Hirotoko Onozawa scoring the first try of the match. Soon thereafter rightwinger Yasunori Nagatomo scored the first of his two tries and when Samoan international flyhalf Tusi Pisi scored in the 38th minute Suntory found themselves well ahead with a 24-6 halftime lead. After the break the Sanyo Wild Knights looked a different team and started strongly with a try to Japanese international backrower Ryu Koliniasi Holani in the 53rd minute. Four minutes latter Todd Clever went blindside following a maul formed from a lineout and he got a half break before passing to Yusuke Aoki who made it 29-13. The Wild Knights fought back immediately with the best try of the match two minutes latter scored by former Australian international Sam Norton-Knight which closed the gap to nine points. With fourteen minutes remaining Yasunori Nagatomo crossed for his second try which was the last try of the match. Suntory slotted a penalty goal to go seventeen points ahead and then held firm showing tremendous defence to close out the match.

The 37-20 win saw former Australian captain and winner of Rugby World Cup 1999, George Gregan retire as a champion. Gregan was a a secondhalf replacement for Atsushi Hiwasa. The quality of professional rugby in Japan continues to improve with former Super Rugby and English Premiership ace, Peter Hewet, recieving less game time in Japan than for the Warratahs or London Irish. With Rugby World Cup 2019 being hosted by Japan it would appear that the country is indeed on the right track.