NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes took a big step toward regaining their Japan Rugby Top League status Tuesday, opening their Top Challenge 1 campaign with a 68-12 win over Hino Red Dolphins.
Dawie Theron’s side ran in 10 tries at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground as they look to bounce straight back to the top flight following a year in Top West during which they won every game by a cricket score.
“You obviously want to compete against the best and prove yourself against the best,” the former South Africa under-20 coach said when asked what it would mean to the team to get promoted.
“We set ourselves goals as to what we want to achieve and how we want to play and I want to applaud the team on today’s performance. But it is just the beginning as we have two important games coming up.”
TC1 features the three regional champions and the best runner-up with the winner of the round-robin tournament automatically promoted to the top flight. The three other sides get another bite of the cherry as they play the sides finishing 13th to 15th in the Top League in one-off promotion/relegation playoff games.
“All year our target has been these three weeks and today we took the first step in the right direction,” said NTT captain Heinrich Brussow, who has been capped 23 times by South Africa.
Two of Brussow’s compatriots dominated the scoring for Docomo with fellow flanker Wimpie van der Walt grabbing a hat-trick of tries and flyhalf Jurgen Visser kicking six conversions and two penalty goals.
“Today was the first time we have played in Top Challenge 1 and it was very physical,” said Hino head coach Tadashi Hosoya, whose side finished runners-up in Top East. “The level of physicality was Top League level and we couldn’t play our game.”
In the day’s other game, Top West champions Kyuden Voltex beat Top East winners Mitsubishi Sagamihara Dynaboars 19-12 thanks to a last-minute try by Makoto Kato after India international Hrishikesh Pendse had earlier given Mitsubishi a 7-0 first-half lead.