17:32 30 January 2016
Rugby: Sanix top Docomo to earn promotion to Top League
FUKUOKA, Jan. 30, Kyodo
There was joy for one Kyushu rugby side, relief for another and heartbreak for a third as the Top League season came to a thrilling conclusion Saturday.
Top Kyushu champions Munakata Sanix Blues were promoted back to the top flight following a 19-15 win over NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes at Level-5 Stadium.
A try from Benjamin Yagi, a penalty and conversion from Dwayne Sweeney and two penalties from Hiroshi Tashiro sealed the win for Sanix over NTT, whose policy of hiring big-name foreigners on short-term contracts failed to pay dividends.
The Blues then watched local rivals Coca-Cola Red Sparks and Top West runners-up Kyuden Voltex battle out a 14-14 draw, before Cola - as the incumbent Top League side and with no extra-time allowed - were declared the winners.
The two other two promotion/relegation games at Kumagaya Rugby Ground went according to the form book, with NEC Green Rockets downing Top East champions Mitsubishi Sagamihara Dynaboars 17-3 and Ricoh Black Rams hammering this season's No. 1 side in Top West, Osaka Police 76-0.
Under blue skies in Fukuoka, Yuichiro Fujii's men -- who went unbeaten in winning Top Kysuhu and the Top Challenger Series -- dominated early possession and territory and were eventually rewarded with a five-pointer by Yagi, converted by Sweeney.
Shota Saiguchi brought the sides level by converting a well-worked try by Masaki Kawabata in the 28th-minute, before Sweeney once again put Sanix ahead with a penalty in the 41st minute.
An exchange of penalties between Sweeney and Saiguchi in the opening 20 minutes of the second stanza left the game finely poised.
And it was Sanix that kept their composure with Tashiro banging over penalties in the 66th and 74th minutes to seal the win and a place in the top flight, despite a last-minute try from Masaki Midorikawa.
While Sanix will be back among the big boys next season, NTT Docomo - who signed the Springbok trio of Handre Pollard, Eben Etzebeth and Jesse Kriel in the offseason - will be taking part in Top West, where they will play the likes of Osaka Police, Chubu Electric Power and JR West.