RUGBY JERSEY – League One Playoffs Final: Panasonic Wild Knights vs Toshiba Brave Lupas

 (Written by Azul: June 11, 2024)

The Japan Rugby League One playoff final to conclude the 2023-2024 season was held on May 25, 2024. The final was held at the National Stadium in Tokyo. The final was held at Tokyo’s National Stadium and attracted 56,486 spectators, the largest attendance in League One’s history.

Judging from last season’s results, I was expecting about 40,000 people to show up, but I was wrong in a good way. I hope that the League One game will continue to develop better and that the Japanese national rugby team, which grew out of this event, will perform well at RWC 2027.

And it was a fair matchup between Wild Knights, who finished first in the league this season, and Brave Lupas, who finished second, who advanced to this final stage.

At the venue, ASANO caster of J Sports, who will broadcast live the day’s broadcast, could also be seen.

By the way, it had been about two months since I had been to the National Stadium, and with such a large crowd, the view and cheering were spectacular.

The temperature that day was 25 degrees, making it a perfect day for spectators to watch the game. For the players, it might have been a little hotter.

Although the main visitors were supporters of both teams, there were many supporters of other teams as well, since this is the highest level of Japanese rugby.

Now, let me introduce the two teams that will be playing in this match.

First of all, let me introduce Panasonic Wild Knights, the first place team in the league.

The Wild Knights’ league record this season was 16 wins and no losses. In addition, they ranked first in total points scored and first in team defense (fewest runs allowed) in the league this season. Last season, the team lost in the finals and regrettably failed to win the league championship for the third consecutive year, but the way they have played this season, they deserve the title of “absolute champions. In addition, HOOKER HORIE and SH UCHIDA, the team’s spiritual pillars, announced their retirement at this game, so this final was a game that the Wild Knights could not afford to lose.

The starting lineup for this day’s match was as follows.

Panasonic Wild Nights
No.Nameheightweightage 
1Daniel PEREZ185cm108kg27 
2Atsushi Sakade180cm104kg30Japan 41cap
3Taiki Fujii183cm114kg25 
4Jack CORNELSEN195cm110kg29Japan 20cap
5Lood De JAGER206cm127kg30Soth Africa 65cap
6Ben GUNTER195cm120kg26Japan 8cap
7Lachlan BOSHIER191cm110kg29 
8Shota FUKUI185cm101kg24Japan 3cap
9Daiki Koyama171cm74kg29Japan
10Rikiya Matsuda181cm92kg29Japan 37cap
11Marika KOROIBETE182cm96kg31Australia 59cap
12Damian De ALLENDE190cm105kg32Soth Africa 78cap
13Dylan RILEY187cm102kg26Japan 18cap
14Kohki TAKEYAMA175cm87kg27Japan 1cap
15Takuya YAMASAWA176cm84kg29Japan 6cap

The best members of the team were all present for the final, with almost no injuries (although INAGAKI, the Japan national team prop, was absent).

** Player to watch  **

(The dreadlocks style player on the left in the photo is HORIE)

Shota HORIE. 180 cm, 105 kg, 38 years old. Position = Hooker. He is a graduate of Teikyo University and has played in four consecutive RWC tournaments: RWC 2011 NZ, 2015 England, 2019 Japan, and 2023 France. In recent years, he has made his presence felt as an impact player, often starting in the second half of games. He is known as a “rusbos (=game changer)” among fans for his ability to turn the tide and lead his team to victory even in poor games.

Next up is today’s Wild Knights opponent, TOSHIBA Brave Lupas.

TOSHIBA, formerly known to fans as TOSHIBA FUCHU, is a five-time champion in the Top League, the predecessor to League One, along with Panasonic and SUNTORY. However, in recent years, they have not performed well and have been languishing in the middle of the pack, but this time, they have made it to the finals after a long absence. If they win the championship here, it will be the first time in 14 years. The team is known for its head-to-head aggressiveness, with a focus on the front rows. This season, the team finished in second place in the league standings with a record of 15 wins and 1 loss. It was the Wild Knights who suffered that one loss. Brave Lupas will be looking for a win in this final as a team and as fans.

This day’s starting lineup was as follows.

TOSHIBA Brave Lupas
No.Nameheightweightage 
1Sena KIMURA175cm105kg24 
2Mamoru HARADA175cm101kg24 
3Yuta KOKAJI176cm109kg25 
4Warner Dearns202cm123kg21Japan 11caps
5Jacob PIERCE201cm106kg26 
6Shannon FRIZELL195cm114kg29New Zealand  33caps
7Takeshi SASAKI180cm101kg26 
8Michael LEITCH189cm113kg35Japan 84caps
9Yuhei Sugiyama169cm76kg26 
10Richie MO’UNGA176cm83kg30New Zealand  56caps
11Atsuki KUWAYAMA183cm90kg26 
12Nicholas McCURRAN188cm93kg27 
13Michael COLLINS187cm94kg30 
14Jone NAIKABULA177cm95kg29Japan 8caps
15Takuro MATSUNAGA172cm82kg25 

Brave Lupas were without No.8 Leach MICHAEL and WTB NAIKABULA (both Japanese national team players) early in the season, and SO MO’UNGA (NZ national team player) was also sidelined at the end of the season, but still managed to hold on to 2nd place in the league. This shows the strength of the team this season, and in this final, they were able to play with their best team members. We expect the team to play a match worthy of being the strongest in the country.

** Players to watch **

Richie MO’UNGA. 176cm, 83kg, 30 years old. Position=SO, NZ cap=56. I have mentioned him before as a player to watch, but MO’UNGA is indispensable for Brave Lupas to win the championship. His addition to Brave Lupas this season has clearly changed the team’s attack. For the opposing team, Brave Lupas this season is a threat because of the variety of tactics they use with MO’UNGA at the center, making it difficult to narrow down the target. MO’UNGA has also shown many times this season that it can detect the seeds of danger in advance and prevent it from happening in the event of a pinch for its own team. Going into the finals, MO’UNGA is coming in with a winner’s mentality permeating throughout the team. This man is serious about leading Brave Lupas to the championship.

Let’s start the first half. Kickoff time was 15:05.

5 minutes into the first half:

The Wild Knights gradually made their way forward from the kickoff, deep in enemy territory. However, the Brave Lupas defenders were also checking at each point of contact and were not easily intercepted. However, as they approached the goal line, Wild Knights’ SH KOYAMA went into the enemy’s in-goal and almost scored a try, but the referee ruled that it was a knock-on.

However, when the Wild Knights made a series of attacks in the enemy territory, Brave Lupas committed a foul about 20 meters in front of the goal post, and the Wild Knights opted for a PG.

The score was 3-0.

10 minutes into the first half:

The Wild Knights attacked again, this time from deep in the enemy territory, and as before, they drew a foul on Brave Lupas about 20 meters in front of the goalposts. The Wild Knights were able to get out of the tight pack and move to the left, where the ball was passed to FB Yamasawa, who drove the ball into the in-goal.

He went deep from 1m in front of the in-goal to score a try, but Brave Lupas’ No.8 Michael made a full-body tackle to prevent the try, showing excellent defense that did not allow the opponent to advance even 1mm. The Wild Knights were unable to score.

20 minutes into the first half:

Despite missing the chance to score a try, Wild Knights continued to dominate the game in enemy territory, and at this point in the half, they drew another infringement about 20 meters in front of the goal posts. At this point, with the Brave Lupas defense looking solid, the Wild Knights opted for the PG, which SO MATSUDA converted to make the score 6-0.

27 minutes into the first half:

Brave Lupas was finally able to get into the game in their own half. Several times they came close to scoring in the opposition’s in-goal, creating chances, and the game became heated and the stadium crowd cheered loudly.

Just past the enemy 22-meter line, Brave Lupas made a move from the left side to the right, and the ball was passed to WTB NAIKABULA on the outside, who got tangled up with two or three opposing defenders in front of the in-goal, but reached out and scored a try in the right corner of the enemy’s in-goal.

Brave Lupas scored the conversion goal after the try to make the score 6-7 and pull the game back in their favor.

35 minutes into the first half:

Brave Lupas was in the middle of the field, and after a series of attacks, a foul by the opposing team led to a PG opportunity just to the left of the goal post near the 22m line. SO MO’UNGA took the kick, making the score 6-10.

Brave Lupas ended the first half with a three-points lead. The crowd cheered for the teams as they played a spectacular and heated game with tight defense and few mistakes. It was exciting to see what kind of game they would show us in the second half.

Let the second half begin.

5 minutes into the second half:

Towards the end of the first half, Wild Knights WTB KOLOIBETE prevented a try, but was shown a yellow card for a tackle that was dangerous play. This meant that Wild Knights had to play with one man less until the first 10 minutes of the second half.

Brave Lupas’ SO MO’UNGA, hoping to capitalize on the early second half momentum in his side’s favor, received the ball in his own half and kicked it to the right side, which went out beyond the enemy 22-meter line, resulting in the 50-22 rule being applied and their own lineout being won deep in enemy territory.

Brave Lupas’ WTB NAIKABULA took advantage of this opportunity, ran onto the ball from the lineout, received it, and raced across the right line to score a try in the right corner of the enemy’s in-goal.

SO MO’UNGA scored the conversion goal from a difficult angle at the right corner to make the score 6-17 in favor of Brave Lupas.

23 minutes into the second half:

The Wild Knights had been struggling to create any chances until this time. However, after being pushed deep into their own territory, SO MATSUDA kicked a golo punt into the enemy territory, and WTB TAKEYAMA kicked the ball further into the enemy in-goal. And they were close to the enemy’s in-goal. Wild Knights flanker GUNTER took advantage of a momentary lapse in the pack, picked up the ball, and scored a try right in the middle of the enemy line.

The Wild Knights followed up the try with a successful conversion goal to make the score 13-17, four points to their advantage.

With this try, Wild Knights brought the game back to a level playing field. The buzzing excitement in the stadium remained unabated.

28 minutes into the second half:

The Wild Knights suddenly went on the offensive and attacked in the enemy territory, and from the left from a tight pack, FB Yamasawa lifted a short punt which was barely caught by WTB KOLOIBETE, who went close to the enemy’s in-goal. It was almost a try for the Wild Knights, but WTB NAIKABURA of Brave Lupas made a spirited tackle to save the ball. However, a tight pack formed here, and Wild Knights’ SH KOYAMA ran in and scored a try to the left of the enemy’s in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 20-17, and Wild Knights finally succeeded in making a comeback.

The stadium became a melting pot of excitement as the two teams fought breathlessly against each other. With just over 10 minutes remaining, it was impossible to predict which way the game would go.

34 minutes into the second half:

As the match approached the end, both teams were showing signs of fatigue, but Brave Lupas, led by their substitutes, attacked in succession, and on their 13th attack in a row, the ball was developed on the right touchline and passed from right WTB NAIKABULA to left WTB MORI, who scored a try just below the goal post. MORI scored a try right under the goal post.

The conversion goal was also successful, making the score 20-24, and Brave Lupas was back in front again.

38 minutes into the second half:

With two minutes left in the game, the Wild Knights made a series of spirited attacks deep in enemy territory, almost dropping the ball several times, but on their 16th attack, they connected with the ball toward the right side, where substitute WTB OSADA received the ball and dodged two opposing defenders, and scored the game-deciding try just below the goal post.

At this moment, many Brave Lupas players seemed to have run out of energy and stamina, and many kneeled on the ground.

At this point, the score was 25-24 and the Wild Knights had a one-point lead with only the conversion goal remaining.

At this point, however, a VTR decision by the TMO revealed that there had been a throw forward foul in the middle of a series of attacks. As a result, the last Wild Knights try was disallowed.

After the 80th minute, with only one play remaining, the Wild Knights made a last-ditch effort to attack, but when the game became a tight battle, Brave Lupas’ WTB NAIKABULA took the ball out of the hands of his opponent for a jackal to end the game and give Brave Lupas their first championship in 14 seasons. The game ended with Brave Lupas winning the championship for the first time in 14 seasons. The final score was 20-24.

Brave Lupas was on thin ice in the final minutes of the match, but they impressed their fans with the resurgence of their prestigious name.

Players from both teams congratulating each other on their good performance in the match. Thanks to both teams for a great match, and thanks to the Man of the Match for the match. The man of the match went to WTB NAIKABULA of Brave Lupas.

The season of League One is now over and the test matches for the Japanese national team will start on June 22. Expectations are high to see what kind of matches the national team players will show us.

**********************

Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine

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RUGBY JERSEY – League One Playoff Semifinals: Panasonic Wild Knights vs Canon Eagles

 (Written by Azul: May 27, 2024)

On May 18, 2024, the Japan Rugby League One Division One playoff semifinals were held at Chichibunomiya Rugby Ground in Tokyo. This time I went to watch one of the two semifinal matches between the Wild Knights and the Eagles.

It was a beautiful sunny day at Chichibunomiya Rugby Ground, and the temperature reached 29 degrees Celsius. Such high temperatures may affect the condition of the players during the game.

The total number of spectators for the day was 15,464. The entrance time was 12:00 p.m. and the game started at 14:05 p.m. I was wary of the heat on the day of the game, so I chose to sit behind the goal with a roof this time. However, since they were unreserved seats, I arrived at the venue 5 minutes before the entrance time, thinking that I would not be able to get a good seat unless I entered the venue at the same time as the entrance started. Usually, I arrive 30 minutes before the game starts, but since I expected a large crowd for this game, it was a good decision to arrive early.

Here are the playoff pairings for this season,

5/18 Wild Knights (1st in league) vs. Eagles (4th in league)

5/19 Brave Lupas (2nd in the league) vs Sungoliath (3rd in the league)

The matches will be held at Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium in Chichibunomiya, Tokyo.

And the next week’s matches will be

5/25 3rd place match (Venue: Chichibunomiya Rugby Ground)

5/26 Final match (Venue: National Stadium)

The next week’s matches are as follows.

Finally, League One has reached the climax of the season.

Last year, the two teams played each other in the semifinals of the playoffs, with the Wild Knights winning 51 to the Eagles’ 21. The two teams have met twice in league play this season, with the Wild Knights winning both games. Furthermore, the Eagles have never beaten the Wild Knights in the past, and are currently on a 15-game losing streak.

However, before the match, Eagles’ HC Sawaki and captain Tamura expressed their strong determination to win the match in their pre-match interviews.

(SAWAKI HC is in the center of the photo.)

The playoffs are a knockout tournament, so anything can happen, and Eagles fans are expecting a giant-killing.

Here is the latest information on the two teams that will be playing on this day.

First, let’s look at the Yokohama Canon Eagles, who finished fourth in the league this season.

The captain of the team, Tamura, returns to the team after being absent for the previous two matches, and the main player, CTB KRIEL of the South African national team, also returns from the match. Unfortunately, one of the mainstays, South Africa’s SH Faf de CLARK, did not make it to the playoffs. However, the Eagles qualified for the playoffs despite the fact that two of their South African players were injured early in the league season. This means that the team’s ground game has improved from last season.

Today’s starting lineup was as follows

CANON Eagles
No.Nameheightweightage 
1Takato OKABE180cm105kg29 
2Yusuke NIWAI174cm95kg32Japan 10caps
3Tatsuro SUGIMOTO175cm110kg27 
4Liakimatagi MORI197cm114kg34 
5Mathew PHILIP201cm117kg30Australia 31caps
6Mitchel BROWN194cm110kg34 
7Sione HALASIRI180cm120kg24 
8Amanaki Lelei MAFI189cm112kg33Japan 29caps
9Koki ARAI175cm80kg30Japan
10Yu Tamura181cm92kg34Japan 70caps
11Masayoshi TAKEZAWA176cm86kg28 
12Yusuke KAJIMURA181cm95kg28Japan 2caps
13Jesse KRIEL185cm95kg30South Africa 46caps
14Viliame TAKAYAWA184cm103kg26 
15Jumpei OGURA172cm80kg31Japan 4cap

** Player to watch **

Yu TAMURA. 181cm, 92kg, 34 years old. Position = SO.

He is a graduate of Meiji University and participated in RWC2015 and 2019. Especially in RWC2019, as the main SO, he contributed to Japan’s RWC best 8 advance. He has the ability to exploit holes in the opposition’s defense and compete for the No. 1 spot in League One this season when it comes to kicking accuracy.

And now, an update on Saitama Wild Knights, the only team in League One to win it all this season.

This season, they are undefeated in 16 games, and as a team, they have scored the most scores and conceded the fewest scores. The team has grown into a complete team this season after losing in the playoff finals last season. The secret of their strength lies in the high level of tactical awareness of all members of the team and their strong team mentality that does not collapse even when irregularities occur. League One’s main concern this season has been to see which team could defeat the Wild Knights, and finally, the challenge has been carried over to the playoffs. Can the Eagles beat the Wild Knights?

The starting lineup for this day’s game was as follows

Panasonic Wild Nights
No.Nameheightweightage 
1Daniel PEREZ185cm108kg27 
2Atsushi Sakade180cm104kg30Japan 41cap
3Taiki Fujii183cm114kg25 
4Jack CORNELSEN195cm110kg29Japan 20cap
5Lood De JAGER206cm127kg30Soth Africa 65cap
6Ben GUNTER195cm120kg26Japan 8cap
7Lachlan BOSHIER191cm110kg29 
8Itsuku ONISHI185cm98kg28 
9Taiki Koyama171cm74kg29Japan
10Rikiya Matsuda181cm92kg29Japan 37cap
11Marika KOROIBETE182cm96kg31Australia 59cap
12Damian De ALLENDE190cm105kg32Soth Africa 78cap
13Dylan RILEY187cm102kg26Japan 18cap
14Kohki TAKEYAMA175cm87kg27Japan 1cap
15Takuya YAMASAWA176cm84kg29Japan 6cap

** Player to watch **

Taiki KOYAMA. 171cm, 74kg, 29 years old. He is a candidate for the Japan national team. He is a graduate of Daito Bunka University. He has been the main SH for the Wild Knights since 2022 and has played in almost every game. One of his characteristics is his instantaneous power and has shown outstanding running ability and stamina. This season, we hope to see him selected for the Japan national team, and we look forward to seeing him play an active role on the international stage.

Let the match begin.

4 minutes into the first half:

The Wild Knights enter the enemy territory, and SO MATSUDA, surrounded by three enemy defenders, makes a big gain with his skillful running skills. And then Wild Knights,

CTB De Allende, who had returned from injury, broke through the opposing defense and made a series of gains, closing in on the enemy’s in-goal. From there, the Wild Knights crossed the enemy 22-meter line, and a move to the right by WTB TAKEYAMA, who was in the right corner, looked like it might be intercepted by the Eagles, but TAKEYAMA made a nifty cut-in, grabbed the ball, and ran in for the try in the right corner of the goal. WTB TAKEYAMA showed his advanced running skills.

After the try, the conversion attempt failed and the score was 5-0 in favor of the Wild Knights.

7 minutes into the first half:

After the Eagles had taken the lead, they entered enemy territory and had a PG opportunity about 20 meters from the goal post due to an infringement by their opponents. Eagles’ SO Tamura scored to make the score 5-3.

9 minutes into the first half:

Wild Knights caught the ball kicked into their own territory and tried to counter attack from there. Wild Knights FB Yamasawa ran to the left and passed the ball to WTB KOLOIBETE. KORNELSEN, a lock, followed him up the inside and connected with the ball.

Then he scored a try in the left corner of the enemy in-goal.

After the try, the conversion goal failed, and the score was 10-3.

Eagles’ SO TAMURA tried and failed to score a DG in the 16th minute of the first half, and in the 18th minute of the first half, TAMURA had a PG chance in a relatively easy position, but he could not score again.

27 minutes of the first half:

Wild Knights, on the other hand, had a PG chance in this period, and SO MATSUDA, who had failed to score two conversion goals so far, made a steady effort here to make the score 13-3.

The first half ended with the score 13-3, and although the Eagles were able to get the ball in front of the enemy in-goal several times, they were unable to score. The game was similar to the previous matchups. Can the Eagles put an end to their losing streak?

Let’s begin the second half.

4 minutes into the second half:

It was the Eagles who took control of the match first in the second half. After a foul by their opponents, the Eagles broke deep into the enemy territory, and from a lineout on the left side of the 22-meter line, the Eagles attempted to push forward in a maul, which they converted into a try in the middle of the field.

The try was scored by flanker Harasiri. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 13-10.

13 minutes into the second half:

The Eagles had scored no tries in the first half, but in the second half, the FW set-up and BK deployment were determined, and they became more dynamic as a team.

In the second half, the Eagles’ FWs gradually made progress by hitting the enemy day defense, and from there, they developed into the backs. The BK team used a lot of looping play, in which each player passed the ball to the left WTB TAKEZAWA, who made use of his natural ability to break through to score a try in the left corner of the enemy’s in-goal.

After this try, SO TAMURA succeeded in scoring the conversion goal from a difficult position.

The score was 13-17, and the Eagles finally succeeded in turning the score around. Eagles’ SO TAMURA, who had missed a few difficult PGs in the first half, made a series of PGs from difficult angles.

19 minutes into the second half:

Wild Knights, who had been unable to create any chances all through the second half, finally created a chance at this time of the game.

After a series of attacks from the Wild Knights’ own line, SO MATSUDA exploited a hole in the opposing defense and advanced forward at full speed, dodging Eagles’ FB OGURA with a step and coming close to the goal post in the enemy’s in-goal. The Wild Knights’ CTB De ALLENDE pushed the ball into the in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 20-17, and Wild Knights were back in it.

The Eagles could have tied the score with a single PG with 20 minutes remaining, but they went for the try on the next few chances. From the field,

The crowd screamed every time either team came close to scoring in-goal.

But in the end, the score remained unchanged, and the game was over. At the end of the game, the sight of many Eagles players kneeling on the ground, exhausted, left a strong impression on me.

As a result, the Wild Knights will advance to the playoff final to be held the following week, while the Eagles will play in the third-place game, also to be held the following week.

After the match, both teams were applauded for their efforts.

**********************

Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine

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RUGBY JERSEY – League One Playoffs and Replacement Round Outlook

 (Written by Azul: May 17, 2024)

The Japan Rugby League One has finished its regular season games and entered the post-season from May 18.

Each team will play two more games to win the league championship, remain in Division One, or be promoted to the next level.

The scheduled matches are as follows

League One Division 1 playoffs:

5/18 – Semifinal 1: PanasonicWild Knights vs Canon Eagles

5/19 – Semifinal 2: Toshiba Brave Lupas vs Suntory Sungoliath

(Venue for both Semifinals 1 and 2 will be Chichibunomiya Rugby Ground, Tokyo)

Next,

5/25 – 3rd place match (Venue: Chichibunomiya Rugby Ground)

5/26 – Final match (Venue: National Stadium)

The matches will be played on the above schedule.

My predictions for the two semifinal matches are as follows

** Semifinal Game 1: Wild Knights vs Canon Eagles**.

Wild Knights’ dominance is unassailable. They have played two games during the season and the results are,

December 10, 2023: Wild Knights 53-Eagles 12 

May 4, 2024: Eagles 14- Wild Knights 43

The Wild Knights won all of these games. In addition,

The Eagles have never defeated the Wild Knights, dating back to the Top League era, and are currently on a 15-game losing streak.

However, the Eagles players know they are at a disadvantage and are ready to challenge the Wild Knights, and Eagles HC Sawaki will be showing some special plays for this match.

Will the Eagles be able to create a stir, or will the Wild Knights have a solid showing and make it to the finals again this year?

Next,

** Semifinal Game 2: TOSHIBA Brave Lupas vs SUNTORY Sungoliath **

In the semifinals of the playoffs, another Fuchu derby was played. Since there are two strong teams in the same district, these two teams often meet at league milestones.

The results of this season’s matchups wee as follows

December 17, 2023: SUNTORY 19-TOSHIBA 26

April 27, 2024: TOSHIBA 36-SUNTORY 27

In both games, TOSHIBA Brave Lupas won, but the content was close.

Frankly, the second semifinal match could have gone either way; Sungoliath has a strong group of players, and they have yet to show their strength to this point. I feel that they are hiding their tactics for the playoffs.

However, Brave Lupas, with Riccie M’OUNGA, the best SO in the world, is getting stronger with each game this season.

We are looking forward to seeing how the serious Sungoliath team and the Brave Lupas team, which is in great form, will battle.

By the way, here are the prospects for the replacement matches.

The matchups for this season’s replacement round are as follows.

  • RICOH Black Rams vs NEC Green Rockets
  • HONDA Heat vs Shuttles AICHI
  • KINTETSU Riners vs URAYASU D-Rocks

The winner will be decided by playing two games at Home & AWAY.

The replacement matches will be as follows

1) Division 1 10th vs Division 2 3rd

2) Division 1 11th vs Division 2 2nd

3) Division 1 12th vs Division 2 1st

The 10th-ranked team in Division 1 (= Black Rams) and the 1st-ranked team in Division 2 (= Urayasu D-Rocks) seem to have the advantage, but in the past, there have been many cases of upset in the replacement rounds.

  • RICOH Black Rams vs NEC Green Rockets

The Green Rockets have played in the replacement round every year since becoming a League One team. Last season, many players were in tears after losing. They will be looking forward to the matchup with the Black Rams.

On the other hand, the Black Rams have few players who have experienced a relegation match, so the important thing for them is the mental aspect of the match.

If the Black Rams can show their usual ability, they can be expected to win the match.

  • HONDA Heat vs Shuttles AICHI

Both teams have experienced the replacement round last season, and in the case of HONDA Heat, their powerful FW was also effective in Division 1. In a head-to-head matchup, the Shuttles would have the edge over the Heat because their FW is a step stronger than any of the teams they have played in Division 2.

However, the Shuttles should have a special play like the one they showed in the elimination match, so the match will be interesting to see how far they can go.

  • KINTETSU Riners vs URAYASU D-Rocks

D-Rocks came into this matchup as the top-ranked team in Division 2 last season, but lost to the Riners, the lowest-ranked team in Division 1, after losing all of their matches. For the D-Rocks, this was a reminder of how high the barriers are in Division 1.

In a sense, the D-Rocks may have an easier time in this year’s replacement round because they are playing against the same opponents.

However, the Riners, who were almost completely outclassed in Division 1 this season, have continued to put up a good fight this season and have managed to pick up winning points in several Division 1 matches, showing a clear improvement in their abilities.

We expect them to play the most exciting games among the three replacement matches.

**********************

Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine

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RUGBY JERSEY – League One Section 15 – Toshiba Brave Lupas vs Suntory Sungoliath

 (Written by Azul: May 13, 2024)

I went to Chichibunomiya Rugby Ground in Minato-ku, Tokyo on Saturday, April 27 to watch the Japan Rugby League One Section 15 match between Brave Lupas and Sungoliath. The match between Brave Lupas and Sungoliath is called the Fuchu Derby because both teams are based in Fuchu City, Tokyo. Both teams have won championships in the past, and both have qualified for the playoffs this season.

There is a possibility that they will meet in the semifinals of the playoffs on May 18 and 19, so this game was a prelude to that match.

Let’s check the standings in League One as of April 26 before the games.

2023-24League One Order(Division 1) 4/26 
rankingteamWinLoseEvenWPSD
1Saitama Wildnights140066434
2Tokyo Brave Lupas121156133
3Tokyo Sungoliath103150187
4Yokohama Eagles104048105
5Kobe Steelers76136142
6Toyota Verblitz7703417
7Kubota Spears6713451
8Shizuoka Blue Revs6623371
9Sagamihara Dynaboars59022-183
10Black Rams Tokyo212013-162
11Mie Honda Heat11306-463
12Hanazono Riners11306-332
WP=Winning Point
SD=Score Difference

Listing the standings, the top four teams to advance to the playoffs have been determined. However, there is a possibility that the 3rd and 4th places may change places in the remaining two rounds.

Next are the bottom three teams that will face the elimination round, but there is still a possibility that the 9th and 10th places will be changed.

The teams that will play in the post-season playoffs and the elimination rounds will have to play the remaining 2 games with all their might.

The number of visitors on that day was 13,147, more than 10,000 people. This was indeed the Fuchu Derby.

Now, let me give you the latest information on the two teams that will be playing on this day.

First, let me introduce the host team for the day, Toshiba Brave Lupas.

Brave Lupas, who finished the season in second place, has returned to the lineup after a late-season injury layoff. The captain, No.8 MICHAEL, and WTB NAIKABURA were back. The team was then fully prepared for the playoffs. SO M “OUNGA, who was not on the starting lineup for this day, but had been out of the game for about 2 weeks due to family reasons, is expected to be ready for the playoffs. If Toshiba Brave Lupas wins the championship, it will be the first time in 14 seasons. Fans will be excited to cheer them on.

Today’s starting lineup is as follows

TOSHIBA Brave Lupas
No.Nameheightweightage 
1Sena KIMURA175cm105kg24 
2Mamoru HARADA175cm101kg24 
3Yuta KOKAJI176cm109kg25 
4Warner Dearns202cm123kg21Japan 11caps
5Jacob PIERCE201cm106kg26 
6Shannon FRIZELL195cm114kg29New Zealand  33caps
7Takeshi SASAKI180cm101kg26 
8Michael LEITCH189cm113kg35Japan 84caps
9Yuhei Sugiyama169cm76kg26 
10Hayata NAKAO176cm86kg28Japan 1caps
11Michael COLLINS187cm94kg30 
12Nicholas McCURRAN188cm93kg27 
13Seta TAMANIVALU189cm104kg32NZ3cap,Fiji 3cap
14Jone NAIKABULA177cm95kg29Japan 8caps
15Takuro MATSUNAGA172cm82kg25 

** Player to watch **

Hayata NAKAO. 176cm, 86kg, 28 years old. Position = SO. cap = 1 for Japan. He is a graduate of Kagoshima University in Japan, and has been a member of the Brave Lupas since last season. NAKAO himself was the main SO of Brave Lupas until last season, and as the leader, he has no problem combining with the other members of the team. It will be interesting to see what kind of uniqueness he would show as SO in the match on this day.

Next, an update on Suntory Sungoliath, the Visitor Team for the day.

Sungoliath is currently in third place in the playoffs and will advance. With the Canon Eagles currently in fourth place and one point ahead of them, the standings could be reversed with two games remaining. The playoff matchups are 1st place vs. 4th place and 2nd place vs. 3rd place, so the higher ranked team has the advantage in the matchups.

This season, Sungoliath is characterized by a large, expansive attack that uses a lot of ground. Currently, they are missing their main players, prop HOSOKI, flanker CANE (NZ national team), SH NAGARE (Japan national team), and FB KOLBE (South Africa national team). It is doubtful that they will be able to make the playoffs. A strong team, Sungoliath has been in the playoffs consecutively since 2016, but is eight seasons away from winning the championship. The playoffs are short-lived, so Sungoliath has a chance to win the championship this season. It will be interesting to see how Sungoliath will fare against second-place Brave Lupas in today’s prelude to the playoffs.

The starting lineup for today’s match was as follows

Suntory Sungoliath
No.Nameheightweightage 
1Yukio MORIKAWA180cm113kg30Japan 2cap
2Kosuke Horikoshi175cm100kg28Japan 7cap
3Shinnosuke Kakinaga180cm115kg31Japan 12cap
4Trevor HOSEA203cm114kg24 
5Harry HOCKINGS206cm118kg25 
6Kanji Shimokawa188cm105kg24Japan 5cap
7Kai YAMAMOTO177cm100kg23 
8Tamati IOANE187m121kg26 
9Naoto SAITO165cm73kg26Japan 19cap
10Mikiya Takamoto171cm80kg22 
11Shota EMI183cm95kg32 
12Ryoto Nakamura181cm92kg32Japan 39cap
13Isaiah PINIVAI189cm100kg23 
14Seiya Ozaki175cm85kg28Japan 4cap
15Kotaro MATSUSHIMA178cm88kg30Japan 55cap

** Player to watch **

Naoto SAITO. 165cm, 73kg, 26 years old. He is a graduate of Waseda University. He won the University Championship as a captain in his senior year, and was the main SH for Japan at RWC2023 with his Sungoliath teammate NAGARE. As the center of their attack, SAITO’s quick passing is the lifeblood of the team. Fans are eager to see if he can replace the injured NAGARE and lead the team to victory.

Let’s start the first half. Kickoff time was 12:05.

2 minutes into the first half:

Brave Lupas kicked off to start the game, and Sungoliath caught the kicked-off ball. Sungoliath was caught by Brave Lupas, who promptly went for the ball and Sungoliath was penalized for Not Releasing the Ball.

Brave Lupas elected to go for the PG, as they were right in front of the goal at the time of the infringement.

SO NAKAO of Brave Lupas scored the first goal with ease. The score was 3-0.

11 minutes into the first half:

Brave Lupas kicked the ball into their own territory and WTB COLLINS caught it and tried to counter-attack, The ball spilled out and Brave Lupas won the ball again, and WTB NAIKABURA, with his quick feet, got past the opponents’ defense and went close to the enemy’s in-goal. Finally, the ball was passed to CTB TAMANIVALU who followed NAIKABURA, and TAMANIVALU scored a try right in the middle of the enemy’s in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 10-0 in favor of Brave Lupas.

17 minutes into the first half:

Sungoliath launched a series of attacks as they entered enemy territory, but Brave Lupas’ defense held firm, making it difficult for them to get close to the enemy in-goal. Eventually, Sungoliath attacked until the 22nd minute, where a PG was chosen due to a foul by the opponent.

SO TAKAMOTO scored this PG to make the score 10-3.

19 minutes into the first half:

Brave Lupas entered the enemy territory, and from a lineout on the right side near the 22m line, Brave Lupas’ SO NAKAO lifted a short punt, which was caught by CTB TAMANIVAL, who immediately followed it up on the right side and passed to CTB McCURAN, who immediately followed him to the right. Brave Lupas again showed great backs’ coordination to break through the opposing defense and score a try.

Brave Lupas also scored the conversion goal after the try to make the score 17-3.

42 minutes into the first half:

Sungoliath was unable to score a try until the closing minutes of the first half. They came close to scoring a try at the end of the first half, just short of the enemy in-goal, but despite an infringement by their opponents, they concentrated on scoring a try instead of going for the PG.

The Brave Lupas’ defensive pressure was so strong that Sungoliath was unable to get into the in-goal for a long time. After swinging left and right, the ball finally opened up on the right side and was passed from CTB to WTB, and finally WTB OZAKI scored a try in the right center.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 17-10. The first half ended with Brave Lupas leading by 7 points, and Sungoliath will be looking to carry the momentum of their one try at the end of the first half into the second half.

Looking back at the first half, Brave Lupas scored a lot of points by using a variety of sign plays, while Sungoliath could not break down their opponents’ defenses and score as much points as they would have liked.

Sungoliath’s try pattern was to swing the ball wide left and right, and when the ball was turned out wide, the determined WTB exploited the space to score. However, on this day’s match, Sungoliath’s SH SAITO was not able to supply the ball smoothly because Brave Lupas was pressuring them around the cluster. In the second half, Sungoliath’s SH SAITO will have to see how they can correct this problem, and also how they can rebuild their defense, as Sungoliath’s defenders were penetrated many times during Brave Lupas’ attacks.

Let’s get the second half underway.

6 minutes into the second half:

Brave Lupas started their attack from a position a little bit deep into the enemy territory, and although the attack was not always smooth, Brave Lupas players picked up the ball down the field and attacked in succession to break the line. WTB COLLINS scored his second try of the day in the middle of the enemy in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 24-10.

11 minutes into the second half:

Brave Lupas came close to the enemy’s in-goal and repeated the wave attack by the FW’s rushing.

Sungoliath also persisted in front of the in-goal and did not allow an easy try, but after a vertical rush by the FW, WTB NAIKABULA came out of the shadow of the FW to rush diagonally and scored a brilliant try at the left corner of the enemy goal post.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, and the score was 31-10, Brave Lupas leading by 21 points.

Compared to Sungoliath, who had scored tries in more than 20 phases of continuous attacks, Brave Lupas was able to break the opposing defense with relative ease, which was reflected in the point difference.

24 minutes into the second half:

Sungoliath pushed their opponents with a scrum just beyond the enemy 22-meter line, forcing a foul on their opponents and earning a lineout of their own ball from a penalty kick. Sungoliath secured possession, pushed forward in a maul, and substitute hooker Miyazaki scored a try in the middle right of the enemy in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try failed, and the score was 31-15.

26 minutes into the first half:

After a kicking duel, Brave Lupas attempted a counter attack, with passes going from 10 to 15 to 12 to 11, and WTB COLLINS scored his third try of the day in the left corner of the enemy’s in-goal.

Sungoliath’s defense came back too late.

The conversion goal after the try failed, and the score was 36-15.

30 minutes into the second half:

Sungoliath’s attack found its rhythm at this time. Sungoliath started to make some good passes from the halfway line, and when they got close to the in-goal, WTB EMI dived and overcame the crowd in front of the in-goal to score a try in the left center of the enemy’s in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 36-22.

40 minutes into the second half:

Towards the end of the match, Sungoliath attempted a counter attack from their own territory. Sungoliath’s running and breaking players such as CTB PINIVAI and WTB OZAKI connected the ball and went close to the enemy’s in-goal. The try was scored in the right center of the in-goal of the enemy line.

40 minutes into the second half:

Toward the end of the match, Sungoliath attempted a counter attack from their own territory. Sungoliath’s CTB PINIVAI and WTB OZAKI, with their running and breaking ability, connected the ball and approached the enemy in-goal. Finally, CTB PINIVAI received a pass from Lock HOCKINGS and scored a try right in the enemy in-goal.

After the try, the conversion goal failed, and the score was 36-27.

In the end, the score remained the same and the game ended with Brave Lupas winning the match. These two teams are likely to play each other in the playoffs, so we hope Sungoliath, who lost today, will be inspired.

**********************

Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine

*************************

RUGBY JERSEY – League One Section 13: Shizuoka Blue Revs vs KUBOTA Spears

 (Written by Azul: April 25, 2024)

The Japan Rugby League One is now in its final stages. On April 12, I went to Shimizu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, home of the Blue Revs, to watch the match between the Blue Revs and the Spears.

The distance from Hachioji City, Tokyo, where I live, to Shimizu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, where the game was held, is about 160 km away.

It takes about 2 hours to get there by Shinkansen bullet train, but since it was my first visit to the venue, I took the JR local train to get there. We left at 8:00 a.m. and it took us about 4 hours.

When I have time to spare, I enjoy this kind of trip. I got off at Shimizu station.

Shimizu City in Shizuoka Prefecture is famous for soccer. Shimizu is known throughout Japan as a city where soccer is popular. As an urban legend, it is said that even a middle-aged woman living in this city can lift a soccer ball more than 100 times. I have no soccer experience, so I can only do 50 times.

A signboard of the local soccer team, Shimizu S-Pulse, was posted at the station ticket gate. The S-Pulse symbol was also displayed on the station stairs.

The venue for today’s game was IAI Stadium, the home of the Shimizu S-Pulse soccer team.

The Blue Revs play in Shimizu once a year. In terms of frequency of games, the Blue Revs have played 6 games this season at the YAMAHA Stadium in Iwata City.

Then, I have arrived at the stadium. The official name of the stadium is IAI Stadium Nihondaira. The capacity of the stadium is 20,248, which is the same size as the Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium. The temperature that day was around 22 degrees Celsius, which was reminiscent of early summer. With such warm weather, you can already wear short sleeves.

On this day, Orange Wave, the official cheerleaders of Shimizu S-Pulse, were cheering for the Blue Revs, the home team. Originally, their cheer uniform is orange, the same color as the S-Pulse’s, but since the Blue Revs’ uniform is blue, they wore blue T-shirts and cheered for them only on this day. Also, the cheerleaders could not wear orange uniforms on this day because the color of the uniform of Spears, the Visitor Team of the day, is orange.

Let’s check the standings of League One Division 1 as of April 12.

2023-24League One Order(Division 1) 4/12 
rankingteamWinLoseEvenWPGD
1Saitama Wildnights130061401
2Tokyo Brave Lupas111050132
3Yokohama Eagles9404381
4Tokyo Sungoliath93043137
5Kobe Steelers75034152
6Shizuoka Blue Revs6602971
7Toyota Verblitz6602936
8Kubota Spears5702741
9Sagamihara Dynaboars57022-145
10Black Rams Tokyo211013-151
11Mie Honda Heat11105-412
12Hanazono Riners01302-343
WP=Winning Point
GD=Goal Difference
Division 2

Blue Revs, the team they would be playing on this day, was currently in 6th place. The Revs have won three straight games.

Spears, on the other hand, was currently in 8th place.

Both teams still have a chance to finish in the top 4, which is a requirement to advance to the playoffs. Because of the close rankings of the two opponents, the game on this day would likely to be a cross game.

Here is the latest information on both teams that would play on this day.

First, let’s talk about the home team, SHIZUOKA Blue Revs.

SHIZUOKA Blue Revs was founded in 1982. They have won one Japanese championship (2015). The team’s style of play is characterized by strength in set play, especially in the scrum. The Blue Revs were the only team to defeat the top-ranked Wild Knights in the league last season. The Revs do not have a large pool of national team players or college stars, but rather develop players found by scouts to strengthen their team. The team rarely loses by large margins, and they are always close until the end of the game, making them a team worth rooting for.

Early this season, Kwagga SMITH, the mainstay of the team and the No. 8 player for South Africa, was out for a long time due to injury. However, since the second half of the season, the team has been winning a lot of games and has improved to the point where they can aim for the top again. It will be interesting to see if they can win this match again and make it four wins in a row.

The starting lineup for this day’s match is as follows.

Shizuoka Blue Revs
No.Nameheightweightage 
1Takayoshi SHIGEHARA187cm116kg24 
2Takeshi HINO172cm100kg34Japan 5caps
3Heiichiro ITO175cm115kg33 
4Eisin KUWANO193cm112kg29 
5Murray DOUGLAS198cm115kg34 
6Yuya Odo187cm104kg34Japan 5caps
7Takuma SHOJI182cm100kg25 
8Malgene ILAUA187cm107kg30Japan 7cap
9Bryn HALL183cm93kg32 
10Kakeru OKUMURA180cm83kg25 
11Malo TUITAMA182cm91kg27 
12Sylvian MAHUZA179cm82kg30 
13Charles PIUTAU186cm95kg32NZ17caps, Tonga 1cap
14Keagen FARIA183cm85kg29 
15Futo YAMAGUCHI167cm76kg24 

** Player to watch **

Charles PIUTAU. 186 cm, 95 kg, 32 years old. He represented Tonga at RWC2023 and is the most experienced Blue Revs player who has played for his country. He is a breakthrough player for opposing defenses and makes his presence felt in attack. Currently, WTB TUITAMA of the same team is ranked first in the League One try ranking, but CTB PIUTAU’s contribution to the team’s chances is significant. Also, in defense, their hard work with their strong physical strength shines through.

Next, an update on the visiting team, KUBOTA Spears.

As last season’s League One champions, they are in eighth place with a record of 5 wins-7 loses, which is a disappointing result, but they still had a chance to advance to the playoffs at this point, so they would give their all in their remaining four games. They have not suffered any major defeats so far, except for the loss to the top-ranked Wild Knights. All of the losses were close games. Therefore, in the remaining four games, the team will need to be able to win close games.

This day’s starting lineup was as follows.

KUBOTA SPEARS
No.Nameheightweightage 
1Kota KAISHI172cm102kg29 
2Dane COLES184cm110kg36New Zealand 90 cap
3Opeti HELU190cm127kg25 
4Ruan BOTHA205cm120kg33 
5David BULBRING199cm113kg34 
6Peter L. LABUSCHAGNE189cm106kg35Japan 19cap
7Takeo SUENAGA178cm98kg29 
8Faulua MAKISI182cm117kg27Japan 5cap
9Shinobu FUJIWARA171cm76kg25 
10Bernard FOLEY182cm89kg34Australia 71cap
11Kim SURYUNG186cm90kg26 
12Harumichi TATEKAWA180cm93kg34Japan 56cap
13Sione TEAUPA183cm97kg31Japan 3cap
14Koga Nezuka173cm82kg25Japan 1cap
15Yuhei SHIMADA183cm87kg26 

** Player to watch **

Rikus PRETORIUS. 193 cm, 104 kg, 25 years old. Position = CTB. born in South Africa. joined Spears in 2022. He started the game as a reserve, but is expected to be an impact player from the second half. He is a huge CTB, over 190 cm tall, and is the nucleus of the attack and a breakthrough player for the opposing defense. One of the characteristics of this player is his inexhaustible stamina, which does not wane even in the late stages of the game. He made his debut in the 6th match of this season against the Black Rams, and has been an unwavering regular ever since.

Let’s begin the first half of the match.

From the start of the match, both sides attacked deep into enemy territory, creating several opportunities to score, but failed to score.

12 minutes into the first half:

It was Spears who scored first.

After attacking in front of the enemy 22m line, Lock BOTHA slipped behind the enemy defensive net, advanced forward, and from there, developed to the left, connecting a pass from Hooker COLES to CTB TATEKAWA, where TATEKAWA scored a try in the middle of the enemy in-goal on the left side.

The conversion goal after the try failed, and the score was 0-5.

15 minutes into the first half:

Spears tried a series of attacks, starting with a scrum from their own line. Although the ball was not deployed with fluent connections, Spears’ FW players picked up the ball down the field many times and made steady progress. The Blue Revs did not take the ball away from them, and the FW and BK connected the ball in unison, and finally, CTB SIONE scored a try in the left center.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 0-12.

17 minutes into the first half:

From the restart kick-off after the try, Spears Lock BOTHA got past the Blue Revs defense and advanced all the way to the 10-meter mark in the enemy territory. From there, Spears’ players followed up with a series of follow-ups, and finally SO FOLEY scored a try right under the goal post in the enemy’s in-goal. During this time, the whistle was not blown and it was a no-whistle try.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 0-19.

The score was 0-19, a rare one-sided game for the Blur Revs, who never give up until the very end.

21 minutes into the first half:

From the restart after the try, Spears had a lineout on their own right side. From there, Spears made a long throw and CTB TATEKAWA to WTB NEZUKA, who broke the line at top speed, cut through the Blue Revs’ defensive line, and quickly approached the enemy’s in-goal. SH FUJIWARA of Spears followed and scored a try right under the goal post of the enemy’s in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 0-26, and the Spears’ attack was so one-sided and dominant that it was almost too much to handle. Before the game started, I too did not expect it to be so one-sided.

28 minutes into the first half:

From the restart kickoff, Blue Revs went into the enemy 22m line area and got a scrum of their own ball. From here, Blue Revs CTB MAFUZA rolled a light golo punt towards the enemy in-goal, which CTB PIUTAU held in-goal to score Blue Revs’ first points of the match.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 7-26.

31 minutes into the first half:

With the earlier try, the Blue Revs came to life and moved forward in a series of attacks, deep in enemy territory. However, the ball rolled underneath and SH FUJIWARA of Spears picked it up, and from deep in their own territory, they moved forward at once into the enemy territory. FB SHIMADA followed FUJIWARA, received the ball, and ran through to the left center of the enemy’s in-goal for a try.

The conversion goal after the try failed, but the score was 7-31.

The first half ended with this score. Can the Blue Revs recover from this big deficit? The loser of this match will be in the playoff contention.

Now, let’s start the second half.

Blue Revs had lost too many points in the first half, so they introduced Sione BUNA as No.8 and OKAZAKI as SH at the start of the second half.

In the first half, there were many scenes where they were easily overtaken around the densely-packed perimeter, so it was thought that they have taken countermeasures against that.

9 minutes into the second half:

The Blue Revs advanced their position to the enemy 22m line and got a scrum on their own ball. The Blue Revs pushed forward with a scrum, and then moved to the right, where CTB MAFUZA forced his way through a dense crowd in front of the enemy in-goal to score a try.

The Blue Revs got off to a flying start, scoring the first points of the second half.

18 minutes into the second half:

The Blue Revs, with their momentum on their side, took control of the game and attacked in the enemy territory. CTB PIUTAU brought the ball out of the pack, feinted against the defense, and scored a try in the middle left of the opposition’s in-goal. The conversion goal after the try failed, but in the second half, the Blue Revs were mesmerizing, scoring two tries in a row.

During this period, Blue Revs used their strength, the scrum, as a starting point to keep the game close. when Blue Revs scrummed, they first did not let Spears push them around. From there, they drew penalties from their opponents and steadily moved their position forward. The Blue Revs crowd at their home stadium cheered the Blue Revs players on with a chorus of “Go Go Revs.

34 minutes into the second half:

The Blue Revs continued to dominate the game in the second half, but Spears, who could no longer afford to lose a single game in order to advance to the playoffs, held firm and refused to allow any more scores.

Spears, now on the defensive, committed a series of infractions that resulted in one man being temporarily sent off for a scrum infringement and a second man being temporarily sent off for a dangerous neck tackle in defense. At this point, the Spears had to play with 13 players, two fewer than the Blue Revs.

After the game resumed from an opponent’s penalty, Blue Revs took advantage of their numerical superiority to spread the ball wide to the left and right, launching a series of attacks. Finally, the ball was passed to WTB TUITAMA at the left end, and TUITAMA scored a try at the left corner of the enemy’s in-goal.

A difficult conversion goal from the left end was scored by WTB FARIA in fine style, and the score was 26-31 Blue Revs were finally within 5 points.

37 minutes into the second half:

The Blue Revs were closing in on the enemy’s in-goal and were attacking in succession, but Spears picked up the spill and had a chance to attack after a long time. Spears kicked the ball into their own in-goal for a 50-22 lineout, but the Blue Revs grabbed the ball before it could go off the pitch. FB YAMAGUCHI counter-attacked from in front of his own in-goal.

Spears caught FB YAMAGUCHI of Revs near the center of the ground. Here, a tight battle ensued, from which Blue Revs Lock TUPOU, who took over as a substitute, broke away and gained nearly 30 meters, closing in on the enemy’s in-goal.

However, the Blue Revs were fouled for a knock-on here and it was a Spears ball scrum with 2 minutes remaining. If they continue to hold onto the ball until the end of the match, Spears would win.

40 minutes into the second half:

Spears kept the ball in the air from a tight pack, with the FWs continuing to attack on the flanks. At the final horn, the Blue Revs’ FW ran into the crowd and the crowd stopped moving, and the referee called an infringement on Spears.

Finally, the Blue Revs had the right to attack, and from this point, the Blue Revs started their attack with a tap kick, and the two sides dueled across the in-goal. Blue Revs’ Lock TUPOU then made a powerful move to score a try in the in-goal at left midfield. Finally, the score was tied 31-31.

The Blue Revs still had the right to score a conversion goal, which would give them a comeback victory. The kick was positioned in the middle left, a little closer to the goal post, which was a less difficult position.

Blue Revs WTB FARIA took the kick, but his foot got caught on the ball and he missed. It was an unexpected ending, and the game ended in a draw between the two sides.

The photo above shows the Blue Revs players consoling FARIA, who was nodding off after missing the final goal.

We would like to thank the players of both teams for a great and passionate game.

**********************

Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine

*************************

RUGBY JERSEY – League One Section 12 – RICOH Black Rams vs CANON Eagles

 (Written by Azul: April 16, 2024)

On April 6, 2024, I went to Komazawa Park Athletic Field in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo to watch the Japan Rugby League One, Section 12 match between the Black Rams and the Eagles. The game started at 13:00, and although the temperature was 15 degrees Celsius, the spring sunshine made for a warm day to watch the game,

Let’s check the League One Division 1 standings before the game starts. Including this day’s game, there are only 5 games left, and each team is striving to move up as much as possible in the standings.

2023-24League One Order(Division 1) 4/5 
rankingteamWinLoseEvenWPGD
1Saitama Wildnights110051336
2Tokyo Brave Lupas101046130
3Tokyo Sungoliath83039128
4Kobe Steelers74034161
5Yokohama Eagles7403343
6Kubota Spears5602643
7Shizuoka Blue Revs5602442
8Toyota Verblitz5602419
9Sagamihara Dynaboars56022-104
10Black Rams Tokyo29013-108
11Mie Honda Heat11005-383
12Hanazono Riners01102-307
WP=Winning Point
GD=Goal Difference

The bottom three teams in League One (10th~12th) will have to play for a spot in Division 2, and since the Black Rams are currently in 10th place and 9 points behind the 9th place Dynaboars, they need to win at least two of their remaining four games.

On the other hand, today’s opponent, Eagles, is currently in 5th place in Division 1 and is only a few points away from the 4th place position, which is the requirement to advance to the playoffs. They could not afford to drop this match either.

Let me introduce both teams that will play today.

First, let me introduce the home team, RICOH Black Rams.

Founded in 1953, the RICOH Black Rams reached its peak as a club in the 1970s, winning the Japan National Championship twice and the National Working Men’s Tournament three times,

In recent years, the team has fallen out of contention for championships, but as a member of Division 1, they have made their presence felt as a mid-tier team. They have played close games against top teams and have won some of their games by 7 points or less. The team also has national team players from various countries, making it an attractive team.

Today’s starting lineup was as follows

Black Rams
No.Nameheightweightage 
1Kazuma NISHI180cm108kg28 
2Hinata TAKEI171cm97kg26 
3Shohei OYAMA186cm115kg25 
4Harrison FOX198cm118kg23 
5Michael Stolberg202cm116kg31 
6Amato Fakatava195cm117kg29Japan 7caps
7Brodi McCURRAN193cm108kg29 
8Nathan HUGHES195cm126kg32England 22caps
9Shota YAMAMOTO166cm74kg32 
10Kohei Horigome177cm88kg28 
11Netani Vakayalia181cm95kg24Japan 7th
12Matt MCGAHAN185cm89kg30 
13Ryohei ISODA178cm90kg27 
14Daisuke NISHIKAWA184cm95kg26 
15Izac Lucas180cm85kg24 

** Player to watch **

Nathan HUGHES. 195 cm,126 kg,32 years old. Position = No.8. caps for England = 22. native of Fiji. very rangy back row player who also played 7-man rugby. He played for Fiji, NZ, and England before finally choosing to play for England, where he is the Black Rams’ leading scorer in front of the in-goal.

Now, let us introduce the visiting team, the CANON Eagles.

Founded in 1980, CANON Eagles is a relatively young club compared to Black Rams, and was promoted to the Top League in 2012, but after a long period of stagnation in the middle to lower divisions, they made a breakthrough in 2021 when they brought in the famous coach SAWAKI from Suntory, and last season they reached the playoffs and finished in third place. This season, the team has managed to recover from the injuries of two key players, South African national team SH Faf de Klerk and CTB Jesse Kriel, who were sidelined for an extended period of time at the beginning of the season, and has managed to improve its ranking to the point where it can aim for the playoffs with its existing squad. With only five games remaining, it will be interesting to see how far they can go in the standings.

The starting lineup for this day’s match was as follows

CANON Eagles
No.Nameheightweightage 
1Takato OKABE180cm105kg29 
2Shunta NAKAMURA176cm100kg29Japan
3Ryosuke IWAIHARA184cm115kg27 
4Max DOUGLAS201cm112kg23 
5Mathew PHILIP201cm117kg29Australia 31caps
6Kobus Van DYK196cm108kg29 
7Naoto Shimada181cm99kg32 
8Amanaki Lelei MAFI189cm112kg33Japan 29caps
9Koki ARAI175cm80kg30Japan
10Yu Tamura181cm92kg34Japan 70caps
11Masayoshi TAKEZAWA176cm86kg28 
12Yusuke KAJIMURA181cm95kg28Japan 2caps
13Rohan Janse van RENSBURG185cm108kg29South Africa 1cap
14Viliame TAKAYAWA184cm103kg26 
15Jumpei OGURA172cm80kg31Japan 4cap

** Player to watch **

Amanaki Lelei MAFI. 189 cm, 112 kg, 33 years old. He was rated as the world’s strongest No. 8 by a rugby magazine before the start of RWC2019, and was the leading FW for Japan in both RWC2015 and 2019, Although he was not selected for RWC 2023 due to injury, he is still a powerful breakthrough player. The match of the day will feature a showdown with HUGHES of the Black Rams as the No. 8.

The attendance for the day was 7,454. Toward the end of the season, the number of spectators gradually increased due to the warmer weather.

Now, the match was about to begin.

7 minutes into the first half:

The Eagles advanced deep into enemy territory after the Black Rams committed an infringement in their own territory, from which the Eagles elected to take a penalty kick, The Black Rams were not well-prepared to defend the maul and were easily able to advance, allowing Eagles hooker NAKAMURA to score a try right in the middle of the enemy in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, and the Eagles scored the first points of the game.

Since this was a match between the 5th-ranked Eagles of League One and the 10th-ranked Black Rams, I thought at this point that it would be a one-sided match for the Eagles as the first score was easily scored.

After the Black Rams scored the first goal, the defenders fought hard, and the sound of their bodies hitting each other during tackles could be heard in the stands. A professional game has to be like this to be interesting.

Black Rams is currently ranked 10, but I am not sure why they are in this position, as they have many attractive professional players such as FL FAKATAVA, a member of the Japan national team, No.8 HUGHES, a former member of the England national team, and FB LUCAS.

The first half also produced some decisive scoring chances, but they did not score.

39 minutes into the first half:

While the Black Rams attacked deep into enemy territory and missed several scoring chances, the Eagles, once they got deep into the enemy territory, continued their attack and went up to the enemy 22-meter line.

The Black Rams again committed an infringement in their own territory, and from there the Eagles went into a scoring pattern that started early in the first half, with a penalty kick, a lineout, and a maul. The scorer was FL SHIMADA.

The conversion goal after the try failed, and the score was 0-12.

The first half ended with this score.

The home team, Black Rams, was hoping to respond to the large crowd and get back on the scoreboard in the second half against the top-ranked Eagles.

At halftime, the mascots of both teams circled the stadium.

In case we were wondering, the Black Rams’ mascot is called RAMUMARU, and the Eagles’ mascot is called KANON Chan.

Now, let the second half begin.

9 minutes into the second half:

The Eagles attempted their third maul attack of the day from their own ball lineout deep in enemy territory. However, the Black Rams were able to respond and stopped the Eagles from advancing in a maul.

However, the Eagles were able to move to the right, and LO  Van DYK forced his way through just under the goal posts to score a try.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 0-19.

18 minutes into the second half:

The Black Rams also advanced to the enemy’s in-goal line and attacked a number of times with a maul, but the Eagles’ defenders were not allowed to keep the ball out of the enemy’s hands just before the Eagles’ goal line. The difference seemed to be in the accuracy of the maul attack rather than the strength of the individual players.

The Black Rams seemed to lose heart as they kept missing great scoring opportunities, and when the Eagles got the ball, prop Harasiri, who came on as a substitute, counter-attacked and gained the ball at once. The ball was then followed up by CTB KAZIMURA, who connected with the ball and scored a try in the left corner of the in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try failed, but the score was 0-24.

22 minutes into the second half:

The Black Rams started to turn the tide of the game with a series of substitutions of young players. Lock YAMAMOTO and SH MINAMI were the nucleus of the attack, and after a series of attacks they gradually closed in on the enemy in-goal, with SH MINAMI finally scoring a try in the right corner at the goal post.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 7-24.

32 minutes into the second half:

Perhaps inspired by the Black Rams’ counterattack try, the Eagles attacked in rapid succession, WTB TAKAYAWA of the Eagles received the ball at the right end, dragged two Black Rams defenders behind him, and scored a try right in the middle of the enemy in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 7-31 in favor of the Eagles.

36 minutes into the second half:

In the closing minutes of the match, the Black Rams attempted another maul attack from a lineout in front of the enemy in-goal. The maul had been blocked by the Eagles up to this point, but the backs joined the maul and SH MINAMI scored his second try of the day in the left corner of the enemy’s in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try failed, and the final score of the match was 12-31.

The Black Rams were unable to accumulate any winning points, but the young players who played in the second half of the match were dynamic, and the team was able to reap some rewards for the remainder of the match and for next season.

The Eagles, on the other hand, took a step forward in their quest to advance to the playoffs with a win. The team will now work together as one and give their all in the remaining four games.

**********************

Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine

*************************

RUGBY JERSEY – League One Section 11 – Spears vs Wild Knights

 (Written by Azul: April 5, 2024)

This time, I went to watch a night game for the first time in a while.

The game was held on Friday, March 22, 2024 from 19:00 at Chichibunomiya Rugby Ground in Minato-ku, Tokyo. The match was between the Kubota Spears, last year’s League One champion, and the Panasonic Wild Knights, the League One champion of the year before last. This matchup between two strong teams was expected to be a heated and exciting game.

The League One standings up to the 10th round are as follows.

2023-24League One Order(Division 1) 3/22 
rankingteamWinLoseEvenWPGD
1Saitama Wildnights100046303
2Tokyo Brave Lupas91042123
3Tokyo Sungoliath82038130
4Kobe Steelers64029118
5Yokohama Eagles6402941
6Kubota Spears5502676
7Toyota Verblitz5502435
8Shizuoka Blue Revs4602026
9Sagamihara Dynaboars46018-109
10Black Rams Tokyo28012-108
11Mie Honda Heat1904-378
12Hanazono Riners01002-264
WP=Winning Point 
GD=Goal Difference 

It had been a while since I had seen a night game, but since it was still March, it was a little cold, but many office workers were watching the game on their way home from work. The total number of spectators on that day was 9,491.

As for the two teams playing this day, the Wild Knights are in first place and are the only team to have won all of their games. Spears, on the other hand, is currently in sixth place and needs to close the gap to five points to qualify for the playoffs. With six games remaining, the Spears should be able to close the gap between themselves and the top 4 teams.

Let me introduce the two teams that will be playing on this day.

First, an update on the host team for the day, the Kubota Spears.

Last season, they won the League One championship for the first time, and this season, they are aiming for back-to-back championships. However, they have struggled quite a bit so far, with 5 wins and 5 losses for a winning percentage of 50%. The main reason for this is that they are missing hooker Marcolm MARX due to injury. He is considered the best hooker in the world and was the nucleus of Spears’ FW, so the team’s set plays have become unstable. In addition, the team’s commanding presence, former Australian SO Bernard FOLEY, also left the team early this season with an injury, contributing to the team’s struggles. However, for the Spears’ reserve players, this is a chance for them to play in the game, and we hope that they will be able to improve their player lineup.

The starting lineup for the day was as follows

KUBOTA SPEARS
No.Nameheightweightage 
1Kota KAISHI172cm102kg29 
2Dane COLES184cm110kg36New Zealand 90 cap
3Kengo KITAGAWA178cm110kg31Japan 3cap
4Uwe HELU193cm120kg33Japan 18cap
5David BULBRING199cm113kg34 
6Finau TUPA190cm115kg34 
7Peter L. LABUSCHAGNE189cm106kg34Japan 19cap
8Takeo SUENAGA178cm98kg29 
9Shinobu FUJIWARA171cm76kg25 
10Tomoki KISHIOKA178cm85kg26 
11Hiroyuki YAMASAKI174cm85kg25 
12Harumichi TATEKAWA180cm93kg34Japan 56cap
13Rikus PRETORIUS193cm104kg25 
14Koga Nezuka173cm82kg25Japan 1cap
15Yuhei SHIMADA183cm87kg25 

** Player to watch **

Tomoki KISHIOKA. 178cm, 85kg, 26 years old. He is a graduate of Waseda University. He joined the Spears with high expectations after winning the University Championship in his university days, and started playing in games in his first year, but then FOLEY, the SO of the Australian national team, became a regular player, and he gradually started to play less and less. This season, after FOLEY was injured, he became a starter and took over the Spears’ commanding position. Every time he appears in a game, he wows the audience with his dynamic play, using the ground widely as he is known for. He hopes to make this season a breakthrough year.

Next, I would like to introduce the Visitor Team, Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights.

They became the only team in League One to win all of their matches in Section 9 against Brave Lupas, and took a step forward toward winning the championship this season. The regular members of the team boast a depth of players that could be called a world-class team, and with the return of Japanese flanker Ben GUNTER and WTB player TAKEYAMA from injury, the team is now well-positioned to win this season’s League One championship.

This day’s starting lineup was as follows

Panasonic Wild Nights
No.Nameheightweightage 
1Craig Miller186cm116kg33Japan 17cap
2Atsushi Sakade180cm104kg30Japan 41cap
3Asaeli Ai VALU187cm115kg34Japan 30cap
4Liam Mitchell197cm117kg28 
5Lood De JAGER206cm127kg30Soth Africa 65cap
6Ben GUNTER195cm120kg26Japan 8cap
7Lachlan BOSHIER191cm110kg29 
8Jack CORNELSEN195cm110kg29Japan 20cap
9Taiki Koyama171cm74kg29Japan
10Rikiya Matsuda181cm92kg29Japan 37cap
11Koki TAKEYAMA175cm87kg27Japan 1cap
12Damian De ALLENDE190cm105kg32Soth Africa 78cap
13Dylan RILEY187cm102kg26Japan 18cap
14Tomoki OSADA179cm90kg24Japan 7cap
15Takuya YAMASAWA176cm84kg29Japan 6cap

** Player to watch **

Koki TAKEYAMA is 175cm, 87kg, 27 years old. He is a graduate of Teikyo University. He missed the first half of this season due to injury, but finally returned to the team mid-season. As a utility player, he can play any position in the BK, but he has a wide vision of the entire ground and always reads the flow of the game. His ability to appear at the right moment to score a try makes him a genuine scorer.

Let’s start the first half.

4 minutes into the first half:

Early in the game, Spears had a PG opportunity due to a foul by their opponents in enemy territory. FB SHIMADA scored the first goal for Spears. The score was 3-0.

14 minutes into the first half:

The Wild Knights attacked in enemy territory, and first WTB TAKEYAMA broke through on the left touchline and advanced about 20 meters, where TAKEYAMA was held up by the Spears defense, but the WildKnights then moved to the right and the ball was passed to CTB De ALLENDE, who broke through the enemy line and scored a try right under the goal post in the enemy’s in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 3-7 in favor of the Wild Knights.

20 minutes into the first half:

The Wild Knights entered the enemy territory and attacked in succession, gradually moving forward and passing the ball to WTB TAKEYAMA on the left flank, who cut through the opposing defenders in the narrow space on the left flank, and scored a try in the left corner of the enemy in-goal. TAKEYAMA showed that his try-scoring instinct has not diminished in spite of his long absence this season.

The conversion attempt after the try failed, and the score was 3-12.

29 minutes into the first half:

Wild Knights again dominated the ball, and from a lineout deep on the left side of the opposition line, they mauled their way forward. The Wild Knights’ SH KOYAMA ran through the dense side of the maul and scored a try in the left center of the enemy’s in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 3-19.

38 minutes into the first half:

SO MATSUDA kicked a short punt, which was caught directly by CTB RILEY, and he brought it right under the goal post in the enemy’s in-goal for a try.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 3-26. The first half ended with this score, and Wild Knights took a 23-point lead.

Spears should have come into this match looking for a must-win, but they were unable to make any headway against the Wild Knights’ defensive formation. On the contrary, when Wild Knights deployed a series of attacks, they exploited holes in their opponents’ defenses at key points to make progress.

This game was the same matchup as last season’s final, so we expected Spears to rally in the second half.

Let’s get the second half underway.

3 minutes into the second half:

It was again the Wild Knights who scored early in the second half.

They kicked into the enemy territory, and SH KOYAMA quickly re-gained the ball as it rolled over, and then ran to the left, where FB YAMASAWA ran in to create a numerical advantage, where Yamasawa quickly cut in and scored a try in the middle left of the enemy in-goal. During this time, the Spears were unable to set up their defense and easily allowed the score to stand.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 3-33.

14 minutes into the second half:

The Wild Knights gained control of the ball as the game wore on, leaving Spears on the defensive. They then attacked deep into enemy territory and had a PG opportunity from a foul on their opponents. The Spears were already up by 30 points, but a penalty shot made it 3-36. This penalty shot demoralized the opposing team.

19 minutes into the second half:

Spears finally had an opportunity to score at this time. After a deep penetration into the enemy territory, the Spears secured the ball from a lineout on their own and mauled their way forward, matching Spears’ absolute scoring pattern, only to have the ball taken back by the Wild Knights.

From there, Wild Knights secured the ball from their own lineout from their own 22m line, and FL BOSHIER ran deep into the enemy territory, overcoming their defense. The ball was finally passed to CTB RILEY, who followed up and scored a try right under the goalposts.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 3-43.

24 minutes into the second half:

At this time of the game, Spears made some player changes and introduced some young players. Thanks to their efforts, the FWs fought well in a tight battle and created chances in front of the enemy goal. The team formed a maul in front of the in-goal on the right edge of the enemy line and went close to the in-goal, from which they moved to the left and SO KISHIOKA kicked a pass. WTB Yamasaki caught the ball and Spears scored their first try of this match.

The conversion goal after the try failed, but the score was 8-43.

31 minutes into the second half:

Toward the end of the match, Spears finally dazzled the crowd with their attacking play.

31 minutes into the second half:

In the final minutes of the match, the Spears finally dazzled the crowd with their attack as they formed a maul near the 10-meter line on the left edge of the enemy line. From there, hooker ERA became the center of a maul that quickly advanced more than 10 meters and scored a try to the left of the enemy’s in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 15-43.

34 minutes into the second half:

Spears scored back-to-back tries, but the Wild Knights showed their strength here.

The Wild Knights moved forward, controlling the ball in a tight battle, and when the enemy day defense broke down slightly, substitute SO Kyohei Yamasawa exploited the hole and broke through behind the opposing defense, scoring a try right in the middle of the enemy’s in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 15-50.

36 minutes into the second half:

The Wild Knights started from their own territory, and after a series of big gains, they moved into the enemy territory, where the Yamasawa brothers, SO and FB, exchanged passes in perfect coordination. FB Takuya Yamasawa scored a try in the right corner of the enemy’s in-goal.

The try was scored by FB Takuya Yamasawa in the right corner of the in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try failed and the score was 15-55.

42 minutes into the second half:

In the closing minutes of the match, Spears made a last gasp attack on the enemy’s in-goal and the ball spilled into the in-goal and was held up by replacement FL MOARA.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, and the final score was 22-55.

This was a rematch of last season’s final, but in terms of content, the Wild Knights won handily, and the Spears will be looking for revenge by finishing in the top four and qualifying for the playoffs. There is still more than a month left until the end of the season.

**********************

Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine

*************************

RUGBY JERSEY – League One Section 9 – Wild Knights vs Brave Lupas

 (Written by Azul: March 26, 2024)

For the Japan Rugby League One’s 9th match, I went to Kumagaya Rugby Stadium in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, on March 9. This is the second time this season that I have been to this stadium. This time, the matchup was a battle for the top spot between the Wild Knights, who are in first place in League One, and Brave Lupas, who are in second place. Both teams were undefeated so far going into this matchup.

I walked from Kumagaya station to the stadium with many supporters wearing red jerseys, the team color of Brave Lupas.

The temperature was a little low, but the weather was fine and it was a perfect day to watch the rugby match.

This week, LEAGUE ONE reached the ninth round, and each team has only eight games left to play. Let’s check out the standings so far.

2023-24League One Order(Division 1) 3/8 
rankingteamWinLoseEvenWPGD
1Saitama Wildnights80038281
2Tokyo Brave Lupas80037113
3Tokyo Sungoliath62029109
4Kobe Steelers5302499
5Yokohama Eagles5302327
6Kubota Spears4402177
7Toyota Verblitz4401932
8Sagamihara Dynaboars44018-58
9Shizuoka Blue Revs3501636
10Black Rams Tokyo1707-104
11Hanazono Riners0801-243
12Mie Honda Heat0800-369
WP=Winning Point
GD=Goal Difference

The top four teams advance to the playoffs, but with only five points separating them from fourth to seventh place, the standings change every week. For these four teams, they cannot afford to lose any of their games.

And the game on this day will be a clash of the pride of both teams, who absolutely cannot afford to lose.

Let me introduce the two teams that will face each other.

First, let’s take a look at the provisional leader, the Saitama Wild Knights.

Wild Knights’ traditional style of play is to defend hard and attack fast, and they are ranked first in the league every year in terms of fewest goals conceded, and this season, they are also ranked first in the league in points scored. The Wild Knights lost in the finals of the playoffs last season and ended up as the runner-up. The matchups after the next round are as follows

3/16 vs. Kobe Steelers (4th place)

3/22 VS Kubota Spears (6th place)

4/6 VS Sagamihara Dynaboars (8th)

4/12 VS Black Rams Tokyo (10th place)

4/20 VS Toyota Verblitz (7th place)

4/27 VS Hanazono Kintetsu Riners (12th place)

5/4 VS Yokohama Canon Eagles (5th)

Even though the Wild Knights are in first place, a back-to-back loss would put them out of the playoffs. The Wild Knights have won many close games so far, so they will need to be more determined and win one game at a time in the games to come.

Today’s starting lineup is as follows

Panasonic Wild Nights
No.Nameheightweightage 
1Craig Miller186cm116kg33Japan 17cap
2Atsushi Sakade180cm104kg30Japan 41cap
3Taiki Fujii183cm114kg25 
4Liam Mitchell197cm117kg28 
5Lood De JAGER206cm127kg30Soth Africa 65cap
6Ryota HASEGAWA188cm100kg30Japan
7Lachlan BOSHIER191cm110kg29 
8Jack CORNELSEN195cm110kg29Japan 20cap
9Taiki Koyama171cm74kg29Japan
10Rikiya Matsuda181cm92kg29Japan 37cap
11Tatsuhiro TANJI184cm91kg27 
12Damian De ALLENDE190cm105kg32Soth Africa 78cap
13Dylan RILEY187cm102kg26Japan 18cap
14Tomoki OSADA179cm90kg24Japan 7cap
15Kyohei YAMASAWA176cm84kg25

**Player to watch **

Kyohei YAMASAWA. 176cm, 84kg, 25 years old. Position = FB, SO. He plays with his brother Takuya in the Wild Knights, and they also play the same position. Since his days at Meiji University, he has been a driving force in student rugby and has shown great promise for the future. With his solid tactical eye in the game and his ability to break through against the opposition, he is becoming a regular member of the Wild Knights.

Next, I would like to introduce Tokyo Brave Lupas, the visitor team of the day.

As of 3/8, Brave Lupas is ranked 2nd in LEAGUE ONE. The team’s style of play is based on the strength of contact play, especially by the FW players. The team’s goal is to always be dominant in set plays and in the battle for the ball at breakdowns during matches. This season, they have further developed their strength in continuous attacks with SO MOUNGA at the center, using the ground wide when they attack in the BK.

The remaining matches of this season are as follows.

3/17 VS SAGAMIHARA Dynaboars(8th place)

3/24 VS Black Rams Tokyo (10th place)

4/7 VS Kubota Spears(6th)

4/14 VS KOBE Steelers (4th place)

4/21 VS Mie HONDA Heat (12th place)

4/27 VS Tokyo Sungoliath (2nd place)

5/5 VS Shizuoka Blue Revs (9th place)

Brave Lupas’ goal this season is to win the championship for the first time since the 2009-2010 season. In order to win the championship, they will have to beat the No. 1 ranked Wild Knights, so what will happen today?

Today’s starting lineup is as follows.

TOSHIBA Brave Lupas
No.Nameheightweightage 
1Teruo Makabe172cm110kg27 
2Mamoru HARADA175cm101kg24 
3Yuta KOKAJI176cm109kg25 
4Warner Dearns202cm123kg21Japan 11caps
5Samuera ANISE198cm118kg37Japan 12caps
6Shohei ITO190cm105kg26 
7Yoshitaka TOKUNAGA185cm100kg31Japan 15caps
8Shannon FRIZELL195cm114kg29New Zealand  33caps
9Yuhei Sugiyama169cm76kg26 
10Richie MO’UNGA176cm83kg29New Zealand  44caps
11Yuto MORI174cm82kg25 
12Michael COLLINS187cm94kg30 
13Seta TAMANIVALU189cm104kg32NZ3cap,Fiji 3cap
14Atsuki KUWAYAMA184cm90kg26 
15Takuro MATSUNAGA172cm82kg25 

** Player to watch **.

Atski KUWAYAMA is 26 years old, 183 cm, 92 kg. He is the younger brother of the KUWAYAMA brothers, who play as siblings in Brave Lupas. He has become a regular player. He has the decisive power to score the necessary points as a WTB, and we hope he will win the League One Try King title.

Let’s get the first half underway.

1st minute of the first half:

SO MOUNGA of Brave Lupas kicked off to start the game. It was quite windy on the day of the match, and Wild Knights were downwind in the first half. Wild Knights’ SO MATSUDA was aware of the strong wind and kicked the ball with a low trajectory. Mounga, using passing dummies and clever feints, got behind the Wild Knights’ defense and ran into the middle of the enemy in-goal on the left side for the first try. The crowd cheered loudly for this big play.

And SO MOUNGA of Brave Lupas scored the conversion goal himself to make the score 0-7.

7 minutes into the first half:

Brave Lupas did well to hold them off, but the Wild Knights moved up to the goal posts, where FL BOSHIER scored a try to the left of the posts.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful and the score was tied 7-7.

14 minutes into the first half:

Wild Knights had several chances to attack deep into the enemy territory, but the strong defense in front of the goal by Brave Lupas’ FW made it difficult for them to make an in-goal attempt. Hence, on several opponents’ penalties, they opted for a PG, which was scored by SO MATSUDA to make the score 10-7.

18 minutes into the first half:

Both teams had strong defense in front of the goal, and it was difficult to score a try. Brave Lupas pushed deep into enemy territory and drew a foul on their opponents, where SO MOUNGA converted a PG. The score was tied 10-10.

The Wild Knights showed their skill in the game and drew their opponents into foul play, scoring three PGs in the 23rd, 28th, and 31st minutes of the first half to make the score 19-10.

The first half ended with Wild Knights leading by 9 points.

The defense in front of the goal by both teams was strong, and there were few opportunities for tries. However, Wild Knights took advantage of a tight battle after entering enemy territory and created many PG opportunities, which SO MATSUDA converted to give them the lead at the end of the first half. As usual, Wild Knights played a solid game, but can Brave Lupas turn the tide in the second half?

Let’s get the second half underway.

5 minutes into the second half:

It was Wild Knights who scored first in the second half.

After the kickoff, the Wild Knights advanced deep into enemy territory, and from there, with a rush by their FW and CTB De ALLENDE, they closed in on the enemy in-goal. From there, SH KOYAMA passed the ball to WTB OSADA on the right side of the field, and finally OSADA scored a try in the right corner of the enemy’s in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try failed, making the score 24-10.

10 minutes into the second half:

SO MATSUDA rolled the ball over and SO MOUNGA of Brave Lupas missed the catch and the ball rolled into the in-goal. FB Yamasawa of the Wild Knights held up the ball and scored a try.

The conversion goal after the try was missed.

26 minutes into the second half:

Brave Lupas’ FW switched on at this time, and their powerful FW players made a series of frontal breakthroughs to advance the ball forward. With 5 meters to the goalposts, Brave Lupas lock Deans burst past two defenders and scored a try right under the posts.

The conversion goal was also successful, making the score 29-17.

30 minutes into the second half:

Brave Lupas’ FWs used their strengths to make continuous head-on contact, breaking down the enemy defenders and making progress, and when the enemy in-goal was close, Brave Lupas made further progress, moving off to the right, and finally prop LATU, who came on as a substitute, scored a try in the enemy’s in-goal, in the left center of the field.

Brave Lupas scored back-to-back tries in the second half to finally pull within five points of the Wild Knights.

39 minutes into the second half:

With only a few minutes left in the second half, the Wild Knights looked to be in a position to win the game, and they launched a wave attack in the enemy territory, mainly through their front line. The Wild Knights worked as a team to make progress in a tight battle, and came close to the enemy’s in-goal. The Wild Knights came out of the densely-packed battle to the right, and when the ball was passed to substitute lock ABOTT, he dove just under the goal posts in the enemy in-goal where the defense was thinning to score a try.

The try, scored with less than a minute remaining, sealed the victory for the Wild Knights. The game ended when the Wild Knights used up all the remaining time to score the conversion goal.

The final score was 36-24.

This was the ninth straight win for the Wild Knights, who are now undefeated this season. They are in second place after their first loss to Brave Lupas. With seven games remaining in the season, who will be able to stop the Wild Knights’ winning streak?

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Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine

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RUGBY JERSEY – League One Section 7 – Wild Knights vs Sungoliath

 (Written by Azul: March 14, 2024)

On February 17, 2024, the seventh round of LEAGUE ONE was played between Panasonic Wild Knights (2nd last season) and Suntory Sungoliath (4th last season).

So far this season, the Wild Knights are in first place with a 6-0 record, while Sungoliath is in third place with a 5-1 record. The match was a topsy-turvy matchup that Japanese rugby fans were eagerly awaiting.

The venue for this match was Kumagaya Rugby Ground, the home ground of Wild Knights. It took three hours one way to go out from my home (Hachioji City, Tokyo).

The number of spectators who came to watch the match that day was 12,030.

It was indeed a good matchup of top-ranked teams. Kumagaya Rugby Ground has a very different atmosphere from Chichibunomiya Rugby Ground.

Since it is the home ground of the Wild Knights, an estimated 80% of the spectators on this day were Wild Knights fans, but there were also some avid Sungoliath fans in attendance.

League One’s games this season have been more and more closely contested, and each venue has become more and more exciting. One of the reasons for this may be that the world stars of the RWC 2023 in France can be seen in person at each of the Japanese venues. Last season, the average attendance was less than 5,000, partly due to the impact of the new corona outbreak, but this season, the number of spectators has been over 10,000 at many matches. I hope that the number of rugby fans will continue to increase in Japan.

Now, let me give you an update on the two teams that will be playing this time.

First, let me introduce the home team, the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights.

They won the Top League in the 2020-2021 season and the League One championship in the 2021-2022 season. Last season, they were runners-up in League One, and this season, they have won six straight games and are in first place in League One. In addition, they were the only Japanese team to win against a top Super Rugby team at the recently held The Cross Border Rugby. In both name and reality, they are the strongest rugby team in Japan. Their style of play is solid defense and quick attack. It will be interesting to see if they can extend their winning streak against a strong Sungoliath team.

Today’s starting lineup is as follows.

Panasonic Wild Nights
No.Nameheightweightage 
1Craig Miller186cm116kg33Japan 17cap
2Atsushi Sakade180cm104kg30Japan 41cap
3Taiki Fujii183cm114kg25 
4Mark ABBOTT197cm112kg33 
5Lood De JAGER206cm127kg30Soth Africa 65cap
6Shota FUKUI186cm101kg24Japan 3cap
7Lachlan BOSHIER191cm110kg29 
8Jack CORNELSEN195cm110kg29Japan 20cap
9Taiki Koyama171cm74kg29Japan
10Rikiya Matsuda181cm92kg29Japan 37cap
11Marika KOROIBETE182cm96kg31Australia 59cap
12Damian De ALLENDE190cm105kg32Soth Africa 78cap
13Dylan RILEY187cm102kg26Japan 18cap
14Tomoki OSADA179cm90kg24Japan 7cap
15Ryuji Noguchi177cm83kg28Japan 14cap

** Player to watch **

Lood De JAGER. 206 cm, 127 kg, 30 years old. Position = lock. South Africa cap=65. He was a key player in the South African national team, the strongest team in the world today, and competed in consecutive RWC 2015 and 2019.At RWC 2023, he was left out of the South African national team due to poor condition just before the tournament. However, by the start of League One, he had recovered and was named in the starting lineup. He played an outstanding role in the recent Cross Border Rugby match against the Chiefs, and as a key player for the Wild Knights, he will be a player to keep an eye on in this match.

Next, let us introduce the visiting team, Suntory Sungoliath.

Suntory Sungoliath is a rival team that competes with Wild Knights for the championship almost every season, winning the championship four times in the Top League and boasting the No. 1 player depth in Japan. Even Japanese national team players have difficulty becoming regular members of Sungoliath. In the recent Cross Border Rugby, they suffered a heavy defeat against the Blues of Super Rugby. It was a disappointing result for the team representing Japan, but Sungoliath fans are hoping that the team will be able to show what they have learned from that loss in today’s match.

Today’s starting lineup is as follows

Suntory Sungoliath
No.Nameheightweightage 
1Yukio MORIKAWA180cm113kg30Japan 2cap
2Kosuke Horikoshi175cm100kg28Japan 7cap
3Shinnosuke Kakinaga180cm115kg31Japan 12cap
4Sam JEFFRIES198cm114kg30 
5Harry HOCKINGS206cm118kg25 
6Kanji Shimokawa188cm105kg24Japan 5cap
7Sota OKETANI175cm98kg29 
8Hendrik Tui188m110kg35Japan 47cap
9Yutaka Nagare165cm75kg31Japan 36cap
10Mikiya Takamoto171cm80kg22 
11Shota EMI183cm95kg32 
12Ryoto Nakamura181cm92kg32Japan 39cap
13Taiga OZAKI184cm93kg25 
14Seiya Ozaki175cm85kg28Japan 4cap
15Cheslin Kolbe172cm80kg30South Africa 31cap

** Player to watch **

Cheslin Kolbe. 172 cm, 80 kg, 30 years old. Position = FB; South African Cap = 31. The biggest star of the players who joined League One this season. He has been playing a central role in the team since the start of the season, and is a very talented player. 172cm in length and a regular member of the South African team, where many of the players are over 2m tall, he is a small man, but he is not a mere specimen. He is truly a “small giant. He is winning the hearts of Japanese fans with his steady technique on the ball, his precise decision making as a FB, and his spirit of never giving up in the game. We will be watching to see how he performs on this day.

Now, let the match begin.

Before the game started, many people in the stadium were saying that Wild Knights would win by a large margin against Sungoliath. Kumagaya is the home ground of Wild Knights, so it is only natural that the local fans are very fond of Wild Knights. It is only natural that local fans would think so.

However, you never know until actually the game finished.

4 minutes into the first half:

Wild Knights caught the ball off the kickoff and made some solid advances into Sungoliath territory. Wild Knights’ flanker BOSHIER held up the ball and drew a not-release-the-ball infringement. The SO MATSUDA made a steady effort to score the first penalty goal. The score was 3-0.

9 minutes into the first half:

Sungoliath got into the opponent’s territory, and with a series of attacks, which is one of the team’s strong points, they moved forward. From the center of the opposition territory, Sungoliath first moved to the left, and then on the left flank, approached the opposition’s in-goal. There, they were caught by the Wild Knights’ defenders, but from there, the team made a big move to the right and passed from FB to No.8, CTB, and finally to WTB OZAKI, who scored a try in the right corner of the enemy in-goal. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, and the score was 3-7, Sungoliath was back in front.

11 minutes into the first half:

The Wild Knights connected with the ball from their own line and gradually moved forward into enemy territory, where they had a tight battle, and inside CTB De ALLENDE received the ball and moved forward, outside CTB RILEY advanced into the enemy’s in-goal and scored a try in the middle of the left field. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, and the score was 10-7, Wild Knights were back on top.

25 minutes into the first half:

The first half started out with a scoring rush by both teams, but during this period, both sides continued to create opportunities that did not lead to scores.

However, as the Wild Knights pushed deep into enemy territory, Sungoliath committed an uncharacteristic foul. Then SO MATSUDA of Wild Knights scored by PG to make the score 13-7.

32 minutes into the first half:

After a mistake by the Wild Knights, Sungoliath won the ball and attempted a series of attacks. The ball was connected well and deep into enemy territory, the Wild Knights were fouled over the top in a tight pack, giving Sungoliath the opportunity to go for the PG. Sungoliath’s SO TAKAMOTO made steady progress on the PG, making the score 13-10.

The first half ended with the score at this point. The teams played to their strengths, and the score remained close heading into the second half.

Let the second half begin.

5 minutes into the second half:

Sungoliath’s regular SO this season is TAKAMOTO from Teikyo University, who is expected to be the commanding force of Japan’s national team for RWC2027, and this was his first match against MATSUDA, the current SO of Japan.

Sungoliath attacked in the enemy territory early in the second half, and after a series of attacks on the enemy in-goal, TAKAMOTO took his opponents by surprise and scored a DG.

The score was now tied 13-13.

6 minutes into the second half:

Sungoliath, buoyed by their first goal of the second half, got on the board with a counter attack from their own half, and SO TAKAMOTO exploited a hole in the opponent’s defense to run all the way to the enemy midfield. Sungoliath then launched a series of brilliant attacks, culminating in CTB NAKAMURA’s try at the left corner of the enemy goal post. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 13-20, and Sungoliath finally succeeded in turning the tide.

18 minutes into the second half:

The Wild Knights, who always attack in the second half of every game, showed their class in this game as well, as they counter-attacked from their own territory and WTB OSADA carried the ball deep into the enemy territory past defense after defense. There, the Wild Knights connected with a pass from the left corner to the right corner, where FB NOGUCHI ran to the right corner and scored a try in the right corner of the enemy in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try failed, and the score was 18-20.

21 minutes into the second half:

The match was a close contest with both sides showing their strengths. After a brief stalemate, Wild Knights drew an infringement from Sungoliath deep into enemy territory, giving them a PG opportunity. Wild Knights’ SO MATSUDA scored to make the score 21-20, and the Wild Knights were back on top.

41 minutes into the second half:

Sungoliath had a chance to go deep into enemy territory and won the lineout, but made a costly mistake when they lost the ball to their opponents. The Wild Knights made the most of this opportunity and attacked deep into enemy territory. The Wild Knights, who are very good at their game, took their time and attacked, and with time running out, they forced their opponents into a foul and had a chance to score a PG.

Wild Knights’ SO MATSUDA finally succeeded in scoring a PG, and the game was over at that point.

The game was close, but the top-ranked Wild Knights kept their lead and extended their winning streak.

Sungoliath also showed that they have the potential to make a splash in the playoffs if they play like they did this day. We look forward to the next round.

** Jersey Collection 75 **

RWC2023 commemorative jersey. Made by Macron. During the RWC2023, the price was over 20,000 yen, but after the tournament ended, the price dropped to half, so I purchased it. I bought this jersey on the Internet after returning to Japan as a commemorative jersey for my visit to France. This was my first purchase of a Makron product. Macron jerseys are becoming popular in Europe, but they are not so common in Japan yet. The design is my favorite, so I will be happy if it becomes popular in the future.

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Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine

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RUGBY JERSEY – The Cross Border Rugby~.

Spears vs Chiefs

 (Written by Azul: March 3, 2024)

On February 10, 2024, I went to the Chichibunomiya Rugby Ground in Minato-ku, Tokyo to watch the final match of The Cross Border Rugby, an exchange match between Super Rugby from the southern hemisphere and League One from Japan.

Since the game was played in February when the temperature was low, I went to the sunny north stand as I did last week.

The Cross Border Rugby event consisted of four matches in total. The results of the matches so far were as follows

Feb. 3rd : Sungoliath vs Blues: 7-43

Feb. 4 th : Wild Knights vs Chiefs :38-14

Feb. 17th : Eagles vs Blues :22-57 

The Super Rugby side won two games and the League One side won one.

When I saw the first game against Blues, it looked like League One might lose the whole match, but Wild Knights showed their mettle. This opens up the possibility of holding another exchange match next year.

Now, for the final match, the hosts are the Spears, who finished first in League One last season, and their opponent is the Chiefs, who finished second in Super Rugby last season.

The photo above shows a supporter of the Japanese team in the bleachers. Probably, he was a supporter of Sun Wolves when Japan used to participate in Super Rugby.

The attendance on that day was 9,439. The turnout was not bad, but we hope both teams will show us a match worth watching.

Let me introduce the two teams for the final match.

First, let me introduce the host team, KUBOTA Spears.

Founded in 1978. KUBOTA Spears won the League One championship of Japan Rugby for the first time last season, and they have a strong FW who is as strong as any foreign team, and they have produced many Japanese national team players in BK. They are a team that can compete head-to-head with the Super Rugby teams. We hope that they will aim for victory in today’s match.

This day’s starting lineup was as follows.

KUBOTA SPEARS
No.Nameheightweightage 
1Kota KAISHI172cm102kg29 
2Schalk ERASMUS184cm109kg25 
3Shoya MATSUNAMI186cm110kg31 
4JD SCHICKERING203cm121kg28 
5Ruan BOTHA205cm120kg32 
6Finau TUPA190cm115kg34 
7Takeo SUENAGA178cm98kg29 
8Faulua Makisi187cm112kg27Japan 5cap
9Shinobu FUJIWARA171cm76kg25 
10Tomoki KISHIOKA178cm85kg26 
11Suryung KIM186cm90kg26 
12Rikus PRETORIUS193cm104kg25 
13Haratoa VAILEA187cm105kg24 
14Koga Nezuka173cm82kg25Japan 1cap
15Liam WILLIAMS188cm85kg33Wales 95cap

** Player to watch **

Liam Williams. 188 cm, 85 kg, 33 years old. He is one of the best FB in the world and was the unbeatable FB for Wales in the RWC2023. As a FB, he is expected to play a decisive role in the attack as well as playing defense at the back end of the team. What will he do in today’s match?

Next, I would like to introduce the visiting team, the Gallagher Chiefs.

Founded in 1996, the team is based in Waikato, NZ. They were two-time Super Rugby champions. Last season, they were the runners-up in the Super Rugby. The All Blacks players were restricted from participating in this Japan tour due to their contract with the NZ Association, and the team was made up mainly of young players, but they lost to the Wild Knights in their first match of the exchange match. The Chiefs were expected to make a comeback and win the match on this day. For today’s game, All Blacks regular CTB Anton LIENERT-BROWN has been used as a starter and game captain.

Today’s starting lineup was as follows.

Gallagher Chiefs
No.Nameheightweightage 
1Jared PROFFIT186cm113kg30 
2Bradley SLATER186cm110kg25 
3Reuben O”NIELL183cm117kg28 
4Manaaki SELBY-RICKIT200cm112kg27 
5Naitoa AHKUOI196cm116kg24 
6Wallace SITITI188cm108kg21 
7Tom FLORENCE190cm108kg25 
8Simon PALKER197m117kg23 
9Cortez RATIMA179m87kg22 
10Josh IOANE180cm85kg28NZ 1cap
11Peniasi MALIMALI180cm96kg27 
12Quinn TUPAEA186cm102kg24 NZ 14cap
13Anton LIENERT-BROWN185cm96kg28NZ 68cap
14Tana TUHAKARAINA180cm95kg26 
15Liam COOMBES-FABLING180cm83kg25 

** Player to watch **

Anton LIENERT-BROWN. 185cm, 96kg, 28 years old. Anton is a solid CTB for the All Blacks and a master of the offload pass, and played in all seven games at RWC 2023, contributing to their runner-up finish. He was not originally scheduled to play for the Chiefs in Japan, but after the defeat in the first game, he was rushed into the final game. It will be interesting to see how the current Chiefs play.

Now, let the games begin.

Before the game started, HAKA, War Cry, was performed by the Chiefs players.

8 minutes into the first half:

After the kickoff by the Chiefs, the Chiefs advanced the game in the enemy territory for a while, but Spears won the ball back in the middle of the field and advanced to the enemy territory. Spears chose to go for the PG. Spears’ CTB VAILEA scored the first goal of the game. The score was 3-0.

15 minutes into the first half:

The Chiefs came to the 22m line in the enemy territory, and showed their determination to score, and made a series of attacking phase, Spears also persisted in their defense in front of the goal, and did not let their defensive net pass easily, but Chiefs got the ball near the goal post, and SO IOANE showed cut out play and passed the ball to the WTB TUHAKARAINE and scored a try at the left corner of the goal post.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 3-7.

20 minutes into the first half:

The game became a bit of a stalemate, and both teams kicked each other. After several exchanges of kicks, Spears FB WILLIAMS kicked a kick from his own line that went right over the enemy 22-meter line. The crowd cheered for WILLIAMS.

25 minutes into the first half:

The Spears were in control of the ball after entering the enemy territory and were not giving it away. Deep in the enemy territory, SO KISIOKA had the ball and threw a long pass to WTB NEZUKA on the right edge, who caught it, dragged two opposing defenders and scored a try right in the middle of the enemy’s in-goal. NEZUKA has been developing their strength in contact compared to last season.

The conversion goal after the try failed, and the score was 8-7.

32 minutes into the first half:

The Chiefs gradually advanced into the enemy territory, with a series of phases. The Chiefs’ FWs attacked the enemy in-goal and prop PROFFIT scored a try right under the goal post. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 8-14.

39 minutes into the first half:

Towards the end of the first half, the Spears were pinned down in their own territory several times, but they pushed back and managed to push the ball into the opposition’s territory. However, the Chiefs were able to get out of their own half, and SH RATIMA made a big move to the left side of the field, carried the ball, and ran it into the middle of the enemy’s in-goal on the right side for a try. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, and the score was 8-21.

The first half ended with the Chiefs taking a 14-point lead.

Now, can the Spears push back the Chiefs in the second half? A change of mindset is required.

7 minutes into the second half:

Spears, who had led by 13 points in the first half, made progress into the enemy territory at the beginning of the second half. YAMAZAKI caught the ball and scored a try in the right corner of the enemy’s in-goal.

7 minutes into the second half:

Spears, who had lost 13 points in the first half, made progress into the enemy territory at the beginning of the second half. A foul by the Chiefs gave the Spears a lineout on their own ball on the left side near the enemy 22m line, which they used as a starting point to expand to the right. SO KISHIOKA of the Spears threw a long pass, and right WTB YAMAZAKI caught it and scored a try in the right corner of the enemy’s in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try failed, and the score was 13-21.

13 minutes into the second half:

Spears entered the enemy territory and gradually advanced deep into enemy territory with FW players making strong contact with their opponents. The Chiefs committed an infringement and Spears elected to go for the PG, which was right in front of the goal post, about 15 meters away. Spears’ CTB VAILEA scored on the PG to make the score 16-21.

17 minutes into the second half:

Of the two Super Rugby teams that came to Japan this time, the Blues, who played the previous week, played a hard contact game around dense areas, which is a weak point of the Japanese team, Sungoliath, while the Chiefs played a set play, developed, and repeated a series of attacks, a type of play often seen in the League One.

In this period, the Chiefs took a penalty kick deep into enemy territory after a foul by the opposing team, secured the ball in their own lineout, and mauled their way forward to score a try by hooker SLATER in the middle left of the enemy in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 16-28.

20 minutes into the second half:

Spears, looking for a way to hold on, secured the ball from the restart kickoff, and from there they deployed a series of attacks to advance deep into the enemy territory. After an infringement by their opponents, Spears secured the ball from their own lineout on the left side inside the enemy 22m line, formed a maul and pushed forward, and as the enemy in-goal approached, replacement prop SAIDA scored a try in the left middle.

Spears also scored a successful conversion goal after the try, making the score 23-28.

24 minutes into the second half:

From the restart kickoff, the Chiefs entered enemy territory and, working as a team, made a series of off-load passes to connect the ball, despite being tackled, to advance and score a try just under the enemy goal posts. The try was scored by Chiefs Rock BAR. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 23-35.

The score was 23-35, and the crowd was thrilled by a series of offload passes that showed the power of NZ.

36 minutes into the second half:

This match was treated as an open game, so the number of substitutions was 13. Chasing a 12-goal deficit, the Spears pushed forward from their own half, moving deeper and deeper into the enemy territory. Finally, the Spears made a big move from the left side to the right side and connected with the ball, and right WTB YAMAZAKI scored a try from the right edge of the field, right in the middle of the enemy in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 35-30. The final, beautiful ball connection to the right was a crowd-pleaser.

The score was no side, and the Spears kept their reputation as last season’s League One champions as they played a close game. If I had my way, I would have liked to see Spears win their final Cross Border Rugby match to bring their record to two wins and two losses versus Super Rugby.

** Jersey Collection 74 **

Once I have finished showing you all the jersey collections I have on hand, since I have acquired several jerseys around the RWC 2023 in France, I would like to introduce some jerseys

RWC2023 commemorative windbreaker. Not for sale; this item will be distributed to those who purchase the RWC2023 hospitality package. We purchased this item on Mercari. Immediately after the convention, it was priced at 8,000 to 10,000 yen, which was a very aggressive price, but this product was sold in large numbers, so now the price is around 3,000 yen. Functionally, this is a product for spring and fall, as it has low thermal protection.

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Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine

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