Giteau collects another top-line trophy

International
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Matt Giteau has won a Japanese title in his first Top League season, helping Suntory to a 12-8 championship win over Panasonic.

It was Suntory’s second straight title, after beating the Wild Knights in the decider in 2017, with the Sungoliath holding out Panasonic, despite a scoreless second half.

Giteau was a beast in defence, making 13 tackles and slotting a conversion in the bruising encounter, as well as playing a critical role in Suntory's two tries.

Sean McMahon was at no. 8, with 17 carries and 10 tackles in the backrow for the Sungoliath, as they held out Panasonic.

It was a tough afternoon for some of the Wild Knights’ big names, with the Top League heavyweights losing some of their key Aussies to injury.

Panasonic lost Berrick Barnes to injury just 10 minutes into the title clash, putting the Wild Knights on the back foot early.

David Pocock was replaced at half-time, just three minutes after returning to the field from a head injury assessment.

Despite playing just a half, Pocock managed nine tackles and a turnover for Panasonic as they battled to snatch the lead from the Sungoliath.

Suntory centre Ryoto Nakamura scored the opening try of the clash in the fourth minute, before Aussie second row Daniel Heenan notched a reply for the Wild Knights, a score that was ultimately the final score of the match.

The Wild Knights were forced to defend their line for much of the decider, forced to make 185 tackles, and Heenan made an impact on both sides of the ball, scoring Panasonic’s only try and making a mammoth 19 tackles.

It was Suntory's defence that won out in the end, though, inflicting Panasonic's only defeat of the season when it mattered most.

Digby Ioane was injected into the contest with 13 minutes left, making 18 metres and four tackles.

The result means Matt Giteau has now collected trophies in Australia, France and Japan.

In other results, Anthony Faingaa’s Kintetsu Liners were relegated from the top Japanese competition, after losing their playoff to NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes.

RESULT

Suntory Sungoliath

Tries: Nakamura, Emi

Cons: Giteau

Panasonic

Tries: Heenan

Pens: Yamasawa