Yamaha Jubilo exposed a huge chink in defending champions Panasonic Wild Knights' armor Friday night as the new Top League season got underway at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.
The Yamaha pack demolished the Panasonic scrum and the dominance up front laid the foundations for a 24-21 win.
"We played the Yamaha style, strong in the set piece, putting pressure on them in defense and forcing turnovers," said Yamaha coach Katsuyuki Kiyomiya.
Panasonic captain Shota Horie was under no illusions as to why his side lost their first Top League game since Dec. 6, 2014.
"We lost the game in the scrum," he said.
In addition to the win, Kiyomiya also discovered the loss of Ayumu Goromaru to Toulon may be no bad thing after all, with his replacement, Gerhard van den Heever, putting in an impressive shift at fullback.
The South African kicked three conversions and a penalty and looked steady in defense.
Though he was perhaps not as tested as much as he may have thought he would.
"Panasonic weren't themselves. They didn't kick as much as we expected," said Kiyomiya.
Three-time defending champions Panasonic dominated the early proceedings, but it was Yamaha who bagged the first try of the new season, when Male Sa'u followed up and grounded a clever chip from Tatsuhiko Otao in the 15th minute.
Jubilo then extended their lead nine minutes later with a great team try, sparked by the dancing feet of Sa'u, finished off by Shinji Nakazono, with some superb inter-passing between backs and forwards in between.
The Wild Knights hit back though, thanks to some magic from Berrick Barnes, the Australian producing a marvelous offload to put debutant Keisuke Moriya away for his first try in the big league.
But it was Yamaha and van den Heever, who had the last word in the half, when yet another collapsed scrum allowed the South African to make it 17-7 at the break.
It was a case of deja vu nine minutes into the second stanza. The Wild Knights once again wilted in the scrum, handing Jubilo a penalty try, with van den Heever duly adding the extras.
The Wild Knights then launched a fight back with Akihito Yamada bagging a brace of tries in the space of five minutes that only he could score, swerving and hurdling his way past would-be tacklers.
But the 72nd-minute sin binning of tighthead prop Naoki Kawamata -- who had replaced Asaeli Ai Valu just before the break as Panasonic coach Robbie Deans tried to sort the scrums out -- put paid to that and allowed Jubilo to hold on for the win.
"I thought Panasonic did well to give ourselves a chance given our set piece difficulty," said Deans.
In the evening's other game, Suntory Sungoliath edged Kintetsu Liners 14-13, thanks to a try nine minutes from time by flanker Masakatsu Nishikawa.
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