Songoliath felled by Lupus in Japanese club rugby


Ex Red Harry Hockings scored but it didn’t stop Sungolaith losing to Lupus in Japanese club rugby.
Ex Red Harry Hockings scored but it didn’t stop Sungolaith losing to Lupus in Japanese club rugby.

A try by former Queensland Reds second rower Harry Hockings came too late to save Tokyo Sungoliath as they fell 28-20 to All Black Richie Mo’unga’s Toshiba Brave Lupus in the second semi-final of Japan Rugby League One in Tokyo.

Brave Lupus overturned a 10-7 halftime deficit to grab the win on Sunday, advancing the side coached by former Crusaders and Bath boss Todd Blackadder to their first final in a decade.

Blackadder will face his former mentor with Canterbury and the Crusaders, Robbie Deans, in Sunday’s decider after the ex-Wallaby coaches’ Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights beat Yokohama Canon Eagles 20-17 in Saturday’s opening semi-final.

Hockings had been denied a try earlier in the second half, being bundled out in the corner by a tackle which included Mo’unga, as Sungoliath looked to rally after Brave Lupus had scored three tries after the break to take charge.

Mo’unga, who had been subjected to an aerial bombardment by Suntory in the first half while he defended from fullback, became an increasingly dominant figure after the break as Blackadder’s forwards upped the ante, dominating the contact area.

The All Black flyhalf orchestrated the first try after the break, with a short pass in behind the front line of the attack, opening a hole in the Sungoliath defence, which winger Jone Naikabula strode through before setting up outstanding backrower Takeshi Sasaki, who ran the perfect support line to cross for a game-changing try.

Brave Lupus were fortunate not to concede a few minutes later when Sungoliath scrumhalf Naoto Saito thought he had scored, only to have the try scrubbed due to an unnecessary off-the-ball clean out which was deemed interference.

Their luck continued after Sungoliath flyhalf Mikiya Takamoto had closed the game to a point with a penalty goal, when Shannon Frizell appeared to lose the ball as he placed it for his 10th try of an impressive debut season.

There was no doubt about the fourth Brave Lupus try, which was scored by Naikabula after a slick interchange with fellow winger Atsuki Kuwayama allowed the Fijian-born speedster to gallop down the touchline ahead of the chasing defence.

Mo’unga’s fourth conversion of the afternoon stretched his side’s lead to 28-13.

While defeated, Hockings, who is product of Brisbane’s Anglican Church Grammar, continued to add to his fast-growing reputation, showing again why he has been rated as one of the best forwards in Japan since his arrival in 2021.

Although the 25-year-old is two years off qualifying for Japan, he is surely already on the radar of Brave Blossoms coach Eddie Jones as a long-term project.