Epic Clash: Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo Triumph in Captivating Japan Rugby League One Final

In a gripping finale at the National Stadium in Tokyo, Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo clinched the Japan Rugby League One title with a dramatic 24-20 victory over the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights. Winger Jone Naikabula’s heroics and the retirement of veteran hooker Shota Horie made this a captivating clash that showcased the intensity of Japanese rugby.
Brave Lupus Tokyo players celebrate their victory with head coach Todd Blackadder (C) against Saitama Wild Knights in the Japan Rugby League One final at the National Stadium in Tokyo on May 26, 2024. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) (Photo by PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images)

Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo Clinch Dramatic Japan Rugby League One Final

The National Stadium in Tokyo witnessed a thrilling conclusion to the Japan Rugby League One season, as Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo edged out the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights 24-20 in a nail-biting final.

In front of a crowd of 57,000 enthusiastic fans, Brave Blossoms winger Jone Naikabula emerged as the star of the show, scoring two tries and setting up the match-winning score for replacement midfielder Yuto Mori. However, the game’s dramatic finale saw legendary ex-Brave Blossoms hooker Shota Horie’s 16-year career end in heartbreak, as a last-minute try by Tomoki Osada was disallowed due to a forward pass.

“The victory provided Todd Blackadder with his first championship success as a coach, while denying Robbie Deans and the Wild Knights their seventh title.”

The Wild Knights dominated the opening exchanges, but could only muster two penalty goals despite having players held up over the try-line on multiple occasions. Naikabula’s controversial first-half tries, along with a Richie Mo’unga penalty, gave Brave Lupus a 17-6 lead early in the second half.

However, the Wild Knights fought back with tries from Ben Gunter and Taiki Koyama, taking a 20-17 lead. But Naikabula’s late heroics, setting up Mori’s match-winning score, capped a dramatic comeback for the Brave Lupus, who won their sixth title since the league went semi-professional in Japan, but their first since the 2009-10 season.

Mo’unga’s contribution added a Japanese league crown to his impressive Super Rugby résumé, outshining fellow All Blacks Beauden Barrett and Damien McKenzie, who both lost finals against the Wild Knights during stints with Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath.

Elsewhere, Sungoliath secured third place with a narrow win over Yokohama Canon Eagles, while Quade Cooper’s Hanazono Kintetsu Liners were relegated to Division Two following their defeat to the Johan Ackerman-coached Urayasu D-Rocks.

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