(written by Azul, November 23rd, 2021)
This time (November 20th), for the first time in a long time (since May), I went to the Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium in Tokyo to watch the Kanto University Rugby match between Meiji University and Teikyo University. First of all, let me introduce the profiles of both teams.
Meiji University Rugby Club: Founded in 1923. The Meiji University Rugby Club was founded in 1923, and is a traditional school of university rugby in Japan that will soon celebrate its 100th anniversary. It has won the University Championship 13 times and the Japan Championship once. In the current Japanese national rugby team, the Meiji University alumnus is Yuu Tamura.
Teikyo University Rugby Club: Founded in 1970. Compared to Meiji University, it is an emerging force. However, from 2010 to 2018, it set an unprecedented record of nine consecutive victories in the University Championship. In the current Japanese national team, Teikyo University alumni have produced as many as 10 players, including Shunsuke Asaoka, Yukio Morikawa, Atsushi Sakate, Kosuke Horikoshi, Daichi Akiyama, Kazuki Himeno, Yutaka Nagare, Rikiya Matsuda, Ryodo Nakamura, and Naohiro Kotaki.
Both teams are undefeated so far, and today’s match will be the de facto final of the Kanto University Rugby Rivalry Group A.
The weather that day was perfect for watching the rugby match. Tickets were sold out. RWC2019 has dramatically increased the number of rugby fans in Japan, but as for today’s match, I think the overwhelming majority are old-time rugby fans. This means that the age range of the audience is high.
Looking around the venue, nearly 70% of the spectators were Meiji University fans. Whenever Meiji has a chance, the crowd erupts in cheers. Actually, cheering at the top of one’s lungs is prohibited due to the new corona infection control measures, but they couldn’t help but cheer.
In the photo above, the person wearing the white and purple bordered jersey is a Meiji fan. And the person wearing the red jersey is a Teikyo University fan. The weather has been warm so far this year, so we can enjoy watching the games in relatively light clothing.
Today, my seat was unusually reserved for the main stand side. There is a roof over my seat, so I don’t have to worry if it rains, but the sun doesn’t shine, so I feel cold when the north wind blows. I felt closer to the ground than I expected.
The game started at 14:00, and since both teams were undefeated and had strong FW players, it was difficult to score for a while after the game started. However, the Teikyo University team won the first scrum.
In the game against Waseda University on November 3, Teikyo University dominated the game from the beginning. However, Meiji University today seemed to have developed countermeasures against Teikyo University, and up to the 10th minute of the first half, except for the scrum, the teams were evenly matched. Even so, it was Teikyo University that scored first. In the 14th minute of the first half, WTB Tomu Takamoto caught a kick pass from SO Mikiya Takamoto and scored a try. The conversion kick was also successful, and Teikyo University took the lead at 0-7.
After the first try, Teikyo University controlled the ball 70% of the time and did not give Meiji University a chance. In the 27th minute of the first half, Teikyo University WTB Shirakuni counter-attacked a ball kicked by Meiji University, broke through the Meiji University defense, made a big gain, and finally passed the ball to prop Teruuchi who was following him to score a try right under the goal posts. It was amazing to see the prop playing in the front line of the FW team running so well. Not only Teruuchi, but all the players in the first row of the FW team run very well. This is the driving force behind the strength of this year’s Teikyo University team.
The first half ended with Teikyo in the lead, 0-14.
At the beginning of the season, I didn’t feel such a difference in strength, but I was surprised at how well the Teikyo University team started the season. What kind of practice do they have every day? What makes the Teikyo University team stand out from the other leading teams?
1) They are able to see their opponents well at the moment of contact, dodge their opponents’ tackles, and pass the ball to their teammates.
2) They dominate the scrum.
3) FW players, especially the first row, follow-up is accurate and long.
Then, the second half started. Can the Meiji University team get back on track?
The Meiji University team has a tendency to receive the momentum of their opponents in the first half and then regain it in the second half, and today’s game was no different. In the 5th minute of the second half, WTB Ishida cut in front of the goal and hooker Ohga scored a try. The conversion goal was also successful, making the score 7-14.
(Image: Ishida, Meiji WTB, taking damage as he approached the goal)
In the second half, Teikyo University miscalculated when their captain, prop Hosoki, left the field injured. He was the driving force behind Teikyo’s powerful scrum, and after his exit, the scrum between Teikyo and Meiji became almost even.
Since they could no longer maintain their advantage in the scrum, the match went back and forth in a heated back-and-forth battle. The Teikyo University team’s impact players, flanker Tongatama and WTB Tuinakauvadra, who were introduced in the second half, were not as prominent in the match. In other words, Meiji University’s players were on the same level as their opponents.
The game itself was heated, but neither team scored after that, and the match ended at 7-14. As a result, Teikyo University won the Kanto University Rugby league match Group A.
Teikyo University is now one step closer to the championship.
Today’s notable players
1) Teikyo University hooker Hayate Era – A player with excellent running ability, decision-making ability, and skills, who is vying for the team’s try-scoring title. He has a great sense of smell for tries, and I am looking forward to seeing him in the Japan national team training camp.
（The player with the number 2 is ERA.)
(2) Kippei Ishida, WTB, Meiji University. 167cm, 73kg, a small player with excellent speed and attacking sense. At Meiji University, he was given the role of libero in the back three, and his unconventional moves baffled the opposing team. At the Olympics, he played SH, and I personally think that he could make a very interesting attack if he becomes the SH for Japan. He is also a hard tackler.
＊＊ Jersey Collection 49 ＊＊
Replica of the Federation Francais de Rugby warm-up jersey, made by Adidas. Estimated to have been produced around 2015. I got it on e-bay for 4,000 yen (used) plus 2,000 yen for shipping, instead of the regular price of 8,000 yen. It’s a good, plain jersey, and I wear this jersey when I’m in the office for work. The only thing that shows the France team is the symbol on the chest. It’s simple, but it’s cool to see the blue color of the French national team.