Wild Knights seek to continue unbeaten run in Japan rugby
The Panasonic Wild Knights will attempt to perpetuate one of the longest unbeaten streaks in professional rugby when they play the Kubota Spears in the 10th round of Japan League One on Saturday.
The Wild Knights haven’t lost in 42 matches dating back to a defeat by Suntory Sungoliath in the semifinals of the former Japan Top League on July 17, 2019. The Spears have been part of that streak on three occasions.
Saturday’s top-of-the-table match between the Spears and Wild Knights carries more importance because Suntory Sungoliath, who play Toyota Verblitz on Sunday, are only four points out of first place. The loser on Saturday could drop back to third, endangering its chances of a home semifinal.
The Spears’ flyhalf Bernard Foley, a Rugby World Cup finalist with Australia in 2015, said he and his teammates have been waiting for some time for the chance proffered by Saturday’s match.
“From the time the match schedule came out, I had the match against Saitama Wild Knights in my mind,” Foley told reporters. “They are a team with excellent defense so we will try to win the contact first. If you can’t win at the gain line, there will be pressure.”
The Wild Knights’ streak began with a 34-11 win over the Spears at the start of the 2020 season. Only six games were played that year before Top League was closed down during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Wild Knights had won 11 straight games before a 13-13 draw with the Kobelco Kobe Steelers in 2021. They have won 30 matches since then and have averaged 38.7 points over the course of the streak.
With the possibility of nine matches remaining in the season, the Wild Knights have the chance to take their unbeaten run past 50 games. Coach Robbie Deans says his team still is being tested every week.
“I think we will be very focused on this game,” Deans said. “I think we will be very focused on this game. It will be a good match. Hopefully the stadium will be full.”
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