Kwagga Smith scored a try and made a crucial turnover late in the game as Yamaha Júbilo beat Toyota Verblitz 31-29 in their opening match of Japan’s Top League. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
The World Cup-winning flank went over from close range in the 73rd minute of Sunday’s clash to put Yamaha back in front (see highlights video below) and while Toyota hit back with a try, the conversion was missed.
Smith then made an important steal with time running out to ensure Yamaha began their campaign with a win.
‘It was quite a see-saw game,’ the 26-year-old told RugbyRocks.com. ‘We scored first, then they did, and so it went on. When I scored that try, I didn’t think of it as the winning try as there were still seven minutes to go.
‘It was a really good game,’ Smith added. ‘[Fullback] Willie le Roux and [flyhalf] Lionel Cronjé both played well for Toyota as did [former All Blacks captain] Kieran Read.
‘It was great for us to get the win and now we’re focused on the Kobelco Steelers, which is going to be a tough game this weekend.’
The Yamaha-Toyota match was played in front of almost 14,000 fans, with the Top League setting a new attendance record for the opening round (116,737 fans attend the eight games around the country, an increase of 39% compared to last year).
‘The World Cup has definitely given the Top League a big boost,’ said Smith. ‘We had a record crowd and other teams had up to 50,000 people.
‘The day before the Top League started, the university rugby final was played in front of a 57,000 crowd at the new Olympic Stadium, so rugby has grown a lot here.’