From Despair to Victory: Verblitz's Remarkable Rugby Comeback

On April 27th, Toyota Verblitz faced Yokohama Canon Eagles at Paloma Mizuho Rugby Stadium. The game of constant turnarounds ended dramatically with a final score of 35-31 in favor of Verblitz, sealed by a try from fullback Taichi Takahashi in the 45th minute of the second half. From the brink of despair to joyous celebration. In their final home game against the Eagles, the team and VOLTs rallied together to secure victory in the end.

Eagles took the lead in the match. Although Verblitz reversed the scoreline with consecutive tries from center Siosaia Fifita in the second half, they found themselves trailing 28-31 soon after. With less than 10 minutes remaining, they were in a tough position, defending near their goal line continuously. In the 37th minute, Verblitz conceded a penalty close to their goal line. With their dominance in the scrums so far in the game, the Eagles opted for a scrum. However, their scrum collapsed due to not being able to stay on their feet. Verblitz finally earned the opportunity to exit from their half. 

A touchkick from fly-half Beauden Barrett took the game back to halfway. In the ensuing attack from Verblitz, the opposition lost another penalty, resulting in a yellow card for No. 8 Amanaki Lelei Mafi. With Barrett's touch kick once again, Toyota earned a line-out just outside the 22-meter line. Hooker Ryuhei Arita threw the ball in, and when lock Josh Dickson caught it, there were only 30 seconds left on the clock. 

What followed was a relentless attack by the green jerseys. Forwards carried the ball, bringing their physicality. As prop Shunsuke Asaoka charged forward, the final whistle blew. Then came the moments of lock Issa Yamakawa, No. 8 Pieter-Steph du Toit. Aaron swiftly approached in breakdowns, handling the ball with precision like a finely tuned machine. Phase counts were up to 30. At 83 minutes and 15 seconds, Barrett kicked the ball with his right foot into the in-goal area after it had been touched by nearly 75 hands. Fullback Takahashi, who had made a swift start, managed to catch the ball despite a difficult bounce and jumped into the in-goal area. The score was 33-31. Barrett calmly converted, ending the game 35-31. The stands, filled with 8,769 spectators, erupted in cheers.

Fullback Taichi Takahashi, the hero of the moment, reflected on the moment. “It (the final decision) was because that space was there for a long time, so I told Beauden to 'kick it. Dick (Wilson) also said it. Wada also called it out. Everyone was seeing the same picture.” The backs calmly assessed the space. "Because Taichi called for it, I trusted him and kicked, it’s life or death. Even if the ball bounced differently, I was prepared to accept the result,” said Beauden who trusted the call. 

There was no penalty advantage in the entire sequence of attacks. If the outcome of the kick had gone any different, the game would have ended right there. Even Barrett, who had experienced numerous big moments mentioned, “It was the first time I kicked without a penalty advantage to win the game after the final whistle. “ It was truly a decisive gamble. What brought it about was the trust of everyone involved. “It’s something we built through the season. It's the result of everyone's hard work,” Barrett added. Also, it wasn't just the backs. The forwards' dedication to connecting flawlessly throughout the 30 phases laid the groundwork leading up to the match-winning try. It was a 5-minute sequence of great rugby. The Player of the Match, following the game against Dynaboars two rounds ago, was once again Beauden Barrett.

With this victory, despite having won one fewer game, Toyota surpassed Spears by 1 point in the standings, securing seventh place in the overall competition rankings. With it being the final home game, the atmosphere in the stands was higher than ever. When scrum-half Aaron Smith came on in the 2nd half to partner with Barrett at halfback, the voltage rose even further. Within that, they seized a dramatic victory. The significance of fans, who had continued to support the team this season, returning home with smiles cannot be overstated. The next game against Black Rams Tokyo will be the last game of the season. It will also mark Beauden Barrett's farewell. 

Another hero of the day, Taichi Takahashi, scored 2 tries, bringing his season total to 13 tries. He rose to 2nd place alongside Sungoliath’s Seiya Ozaki, closing the gap with Maro Tuitama (Blue Revs), who has 15 tries. "Next game, I’ll try and get a hat-trick. Maybe I should join the back of the maul next time. (laughs),” says Takahashi. 

The team aims to carry the momentum into next week and next season. 




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