All Blacks fullback Damian McKenzie was pick-pocketed to be denied what would have been a critical try in the Japan Rugby League One final between Suntory Sungoliath and Panasonic Wild Knights on Sunday.
With Suntory trailing by 10-3 with less than a minute to go in the first half, the 27-year-old made a break and looked certain to crash over the line to help his sided tie proceedings.
However, Panasonic’s flyhalf Takuya Yamasawa was able to strip McKenzie at the last moment of the play, leaving McKenzie in anguish over the game-changing moment.
The 40-test All Black ended up completely in the in-goal and his momentum was certain to take him over were it not for the meddling Yamasawa, who managed to dislodge the ball enough.
Not sure who this little boy was supporting in JRLO final but chances are it will be @sungoliath @ChiefsRugby and @AllBlacks from now on after Damian McKenzie gave him his boots.#rugbyjp pic.twitter.com/L6gb7g9PLr
— Rich Freeman (@FreemanrugbyJPN) May 29, 2022
McKenzie added two penalties in the first 15 minutes of the second half to close the deficit to 10-9 heading into the final quarter.
Both sides added a penalty each to set up a grandstand finish with Panasonic holding a narrow 13-12 lead.
With seven minutes remaining, Australian-born centre Dylan Riley cruelly crashed over the top of McKenzie to score what was the game-winning try for the Wild Knights.
The would-be try that the former Chiefs playmaker could had would have resulted in seven points in a game that Suntory lost 18-12, and will go down in Japan Rugby League One finals history.
It was the second straight final that Suntory Sungoliath have lost to Panasonic after All Blacks superstar Beauden Barrett helped led them to the final last year, only to be undone by Robbie Deans’ side.