Beauden Barrett's Suntory toppled by coach Robbie Deans' Panasonic in Japan final

Former Crusaders and Wallabies coach Robbie Deans masterminded another title victory on Sunday, leaving All Blacks star Beauden Barrett on the losing side in Tokyo.

Deans’ Panasonic Wild Knights, including Manawatu product and former Wales second five-eighth Hadleigh Parkes, hoisted the Japan Top League trophy with a tense 31-26 win in the final.

Barrett, whose Suntory Sungoliath were dominant in the regular season, never got into gear in the decider and their late surge wasn’t enough at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium.

A masked-up Deans had a typically low-key celebration at the final whistle, in a final played in front of a crowd after much of the season was conducted behind closed doors amid Covid-19.

Barrett made a horror start to the final with his cut-out pass intercepted by Panasonic centre Dylan Riley who raced away to score the first try in the fifth minute.

There were some trademark touches from Barrett, and he kicked three from five attempts at goal, but he was largely kept in check by the Wild Knights defence.

“It’s a great competition to be part of, I love the speed and I love the skill level. I’m looking forward to taking what I’ve learnt here in Japan back home to New Zealand. I’ve really cherished this six months here at Suntory,” Barrett said at the post-match presentation.

Mainly used at fullback by the All Blacks last year, Barrett returns home from his lucrative sabbatical facing a task to crack coach Ian Foster’s starting lineup, having stated a desire to earn his spot at first five-eighth.

Rival Richie Mo’unga produced another masterclass for the Crusaders in their win over the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday.