WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Former Wallabies coach Robbie Deans guided the Panasonic Wild Knights to a 31-26 win over perpetual rivals Suntory Sungoliath Sunday in the final of Japan rugby’s Top League.

Sungoliath and the Wild Knights have shared 10 titles since the tournament began in 2003. Deans has now added four Top League titles to his five Super League titles with the Christchurch-based Crusaders.

Japan astronaut Akihito Hoshide counted down the final seconds to the final from the International Space Station with the match providing a climax to a season disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

South Africa-born center Dylan Riley scored the opening try of the final for the Wild Knights, intercepting a pass from the Sungoliath’s All Blacks flyhalf Beauden Barrett.

Japan winger Kenki Fukuoka scored a try in his final match before retiring to put the Wild Knights ahead 23-7 at halftime.

A try to Tonga-born Japan international prop Asaeli Ai Valu put the Wild Knights further ahead at the start of the second half.

But Barrett’s kicking kept Sungoliath in the hunt for their sixth Top League title and tries to scrumhalf Naoto Saito and fullback Seiya Ozaki cut the deficit to five points before time ran out.


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