Dan Carter kicked 15 points as defending champions Kobe Kobelco Steelers won a scintillating rematch with last season's Japan Top League runners-up Suntory Sungoliath 35-29 on Sunday.
Tries by Ryohei Yamanaka, Tom Franklin, Fraser Anderson and Richard Buckman allowed the champions to overcome an intense challenge from Sungoliath before 26,312 at Kobe's Noevir Stadium.
(Dan Carter of Kobelco Steelers, left, during the Rugby Top League match between Kobelco Steelers and Suntory Sungoliath at Noevir Stadium Kobe on Jan. 26, 2020 in Kobe.)[Getty/Kyodo]
A Steelers' defensive lapse put Suntory on the board first as Hikaru Tamura froze Buckman with a dummy and ran behind him for a soft fourth-minute try he converted himself.
Tamura also kicked three penalties to finish with 16 points.
Matt Giteau, who took over for Tamura in the 62nd minute, kicked a penalty after the hooter to give Sungoliath a bonus point in a thoroughly entertaining contest that was a far cry from the 55-5 drubbing Suntory suffered in last season's final.
Steelers, undefeated in three games, are second on 13 points behind Panasonic Wild Knights, who have three bonus-point wins. Toshiba Brave Lupus also have 13. Sungoliath have one win and two bonus-point losses.
Also on Sunday, Canon Eagles ran in four first-half tries in a 38-12 win over NEC Green Rockets, who remain winless after three games.