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Toyota Clip Falcons Wings
8 August 2005, 12:29 am
TOYOTA, Aichi--Toyota Verblitz upset the form book and sent the Newcastle Falcons flying home on a losing note after a hard-fought 29-24 victory in the Expo Cup at Toyota Stadium on Tuesday.
TOYOTA, Aichi--Toyota Verblitz upset the form book and sent the Newcastle Falcons flying home on a losing note after a hard-fought 29-24 victory in the Expo Cup at Toyota Stadium on Tuesday.

While the NEC Green Rockets' defense on Saturday was waving the Newcastle players through like a policeman at a royal parade, the Toyota Verblitz players were revelling in the physical nature of the game with Troy Flavell and Filo Tiatia to the fore, and their Japanese teammates playing out of their skins.

However, the star of the show was former New Zealand sevens player Orene Ai'i, who showed his full repertoire of skills and rounded off his man of the match performance with a brilliant individual try.

The Falcons will arrive in England two days after their star flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson, who flew home on Monday, having spent five days in a Tokyo hospital, while being monitored for an inflamed appendix.

"We would like to thank all those who looked after Jonny during his stay," said Mark Smith, the Falcons media manager. "The care given to him was first-rate."

The hospitals in Toyota can probably expect a few extra patients of their own following a bruising encounter in which Japan's first full-time professional referee Taizo Hirabayashi was made to work hard for his money, with the game erupting into a free-for-all in the 26th minute.

With a typhoon hanging over Aichi Prefecture, both teams agreed to play with the roof closed and Toyota seemed to have the better of the early exchanges.

However, poor defending saw all that hard work wasted as Mathew Tait crossed for the opening try in the 13th minute, the 19-year-old latching onto an inch perfect cross kick from Mark Mayerhofler. Toby Flood added the extras as Newcastle went 7-0 up.

The score seemed to kick-start the Toyota team into action.

With Kosuke Endo showing why he has impressed so many in the Sydney club competition over the summer with a number of strong bursts down the left wing--and the Toyota forwards taking the game to their opponents--the lead soon changed hands.

Three times Newcastle infringed within kicking range and three times Keiji Hirose slotted over the points on offer as Toyota went 9-7 up.

The Falcons restored their lead through a penalty by Flood in the 33rd minute but were then rattled a minute before the break by a superb try by Sekove Leawere.

Ai'i with a fine break down the left-hand touchline; Flavell with a great offload in the tackle and a good outside break by Genta Akanuma saw the ball in the hands of Leawere and the Fijian speedster sprinted over for his team's first try.

However, the joy was shortlived.

With the Falcons camped on the Toyota line, Mayerhofler showed Wilkinson isn't the only player in the Newcastle team with an educated left boot, and the former All Black's grubber kick was scooped up by Jamie Noon, who went over for five.

Flood added the conversions as the teams went into the break with the Falcons leading 17-14 up.

But any signs of a repeat of Saturday when the Falcons blew aside their opponents with a relentless second-half display were dismissed in the 44th minute when Ai'i and Endo counterattacked from deep and Leawere used his pace to go over for his second try--though one of the passes in the move was of questionable legality.

Three minutes later and Ai'i used his dazzling footwork to almost go over for a try of his own before showing that his boots were made for kicking by dropping a goal in the 52nd minute as Verblitz edged ahead 22-17.

Mayerhofler rounded off a good inside break by Noon four minutes later to restore Newcastle's lead, before Ai'i struck again.

A superb chip ahead was followed by an even better one-handed scoop, and the former Auckland utility back then turned on the after-burners to score a wonderful individual try.

Hirose added the conversion as Toyota went 29-24 up.

With players from both teams cramping up, and both benches emptying, it was a case of could Toyota hold out for a sensational victory. And they did much to the joy of their players and their fans.

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