Saitama Wild Knights remained unbeaten atop Japan Rugby League One by virtue of a nail-biting 24-20 win Saturday over Tokyo Sungoliath.

Center Damian de Allende, who set up the Wild Knights' first try through Dylan Riley, was named man of the match. He and fellow Springbok lock Lood de Jager put Sungoliath under constant pressure on a day when every lineout at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium was in danger of being blown off-course.

The Wild Knights took a 13-10 lead into the changing rooms on the strength of their dominant pack play but quickly trailed in the second half.

Sungoliath flyhalf Mikiya Takamoto tied it with a 45th-minute drop goal, set up Ryoto Nakamura's go-ahead try seconds later and added the extras to make it 20-13.

Ryuji Noguchi scores a try for Saitama Wild Knights during the second half of their Japan Rugby League One game against Tokyo Sungoliath at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium in Saitama Prefecture on Feb. 17, 2024. (Kyodo)

And while Sungoliath's strength throughout had been unstructured rugby punctuated by superb offloads, the Wild Knights displayed their own flair when Ryuji Noguchi crossed in the 56th minute. Rikiya Matsuda then converted for a one-point lead.

With errors and indiscipline hindering both clubs over the final minutes and sending momentum swinging this way and that, the last penalty kick went to Matsuda. He let the clock tick down before nailing it and ending the game after the final hooter.

Saitama took the early lead on a Matsuda penalty but some slick offloads that must have made Japan head coach and former Sungoliath boss Eddie Jones' heart flutter saw Seiya Ozaki cross in the ninth minute for the visitors.

Sungoliath earned a bonus point for losing by seven or fewer points in their second defeat this season.

Toyota Verblitz hammered Mie Heat 54-7 in the day's other game.

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