Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
Article courtesy of the Japan Rugby Football Union with additional notes by Ted Hardy, Editor, Rugby America
USA Eagle’s Captain Todd Clever has helped the Suntory Sungoliath make sure Australian international, George Gregan finished his illustrious career as a winner as they beat Sanyo Wild Knights 37-20 to win the 48th All-Japan Championship on Sunday.
Clever, the first American to ever play in the prestigious Super 14 competition, made the move to Suntory after playing the last two season for the Lions in the Super 14. Clever played an integeral part in Suntory’s championship season, leading the way with his customary fire and aggressive play.
The former Wallabies captain came on as a second-half replacement for Atsushi Hiwasa and maintained his record of having won some silverware for every team he has played for.
“That was a great way to finish my playing career not just as a professional but with Suntory,” Gregan said after the win at Tokyo’s Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.
Tries by Yasunori Nagatomo (2), Hirotoko Onozawa, Tusi Pisi and Yusuke Aoki made sure Gregan added the All-Japan title to the World Cup and Tri-Nations titles he won with Australia, the two Super 12 titles he won with the Brumbies, and the French second division title he claimed with Toulon.
“He is a great player and I am lucky to have coached him,” said Suntory and former Wallaby coach Eddie Jones.
Tries by Ryu Koliniasi Holani and Sam Norton-Knight had seen Sanyo close to within nine points at 29-20 – having trailed 24-4 at the break. But Suntory’s defence held firm over the final 20 minutes as the Sungoliath secured its fourth All-Japan title, and first since 2002.
Sanyo had produced a great second-half rally to beat Suntory for the Japan Rugby Top League crown but they were unable to break down the Suntory defence this time around.
“We wanted to play tough,” said Suntory captain Juntaro Takemoto. “The last time out they got the better of us in the second half but this time around our defence was really good.”
In the process of claiming the title, Suntory denied Sanyo their fourth straight title in the 48 year old competition. Sanyo defeated Suntory in both the 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 championships.
“Suntory’s attack was really on song and our defence was not up to its usual standard,” said Sanyo captain Seiichi Shimomura, who admitted his side had tired badly the longer the game went on.