Australia wing Marika Koroibete and Japan fly-half Rikiya Matsuda may have dominated the scoring in Saitama Wild Knights' 51-20 Japan Rugby League One playoff win over Yokohama Eagles on Saturday, but coach Robbie Deans was keen to highlight the contributions of a player who, to date, has only made limited appearances for the Brave Blossoms.

Full-back Ryuji Noguchi has long been the subject of numerous questions as to why he has not won more than 14 caps.

Saitama Wild Knights celebrate their Japan Rugby League One semifinal victory over Yokohama Eagles at Tokyo's Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground on May 13, 2023. (Kyodo)

On Saturday at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground, he showed once again that few players in Japan match his skill under the high ball.

"One player who deserves mention is Noguchi," said Deans, no mean full-back himself in his playing days with Canterbury and New Zealand.

"He knew what was coming (in terms of the high bombs from Faf de Klerk, Yu Tamura and Jumpei Ogura), and he defended it. And in the end, we were also able to attack from that."

Deans went on to say that Noguchi's "excellence with the ball in air is international level. In defense his receiving and in attack in the kick chase, it's a great skill and really made a big difference today."

Noguchi's partners in the Saitama back three -- Koroibete and rookie sensation Tomoki Osada -- also came in for praise from Deans as he explained his team's change of fortune in the second half, following a first stanza that saw them trail 17-15.

"We talked about getting behind them," the 63-year-old New Zealander said of his halftime talk.

"Marika came off his wing, and Osada went looking for work. It's like a leak in a dam. When one man goes through, others follow."

Dylan Riley of Saitama Wild Knights scores a try during a Japan Rugby League One playoff tournament semifinal against Yokohama Eagles at Tokyo's Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground on May 13, 2023. (Kyodo)

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