(Written by Azul, Decemmber 31st, 2021)
The National Collegiate Rugby Championship was held on December 26, with four matches being played. The pairings were.
1. Waseda University vs Meiji University
2. Tokai University vs Keio University
3. Kyoto Sangyo University vs Nihon University
4. Teikyo University vs Doshisha University
Of these, I watched matches 1 and 4 this time. The venue for the games was the Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium in Tokyo. The first game kicked off at 11:30, the same as last week. The second match will kick off at 14:00. Just like last week, this week’s match was also covered by a strong cold air for December in the Japanese archipelago. Based on last week’s experience, I’ve strengthened my cold weather gear a bit. I wore the same N-3B jacket as last week, but underneath, I wore
＊＊ Cold weather gear #3: Lad Weather vest ＊＊
Lad Weather product. It’s a new product, 3,980 yen. Aluminum vapor deposition on the inside. I’m wearing an N-3B as my jacket, so I was looking for something thin, light, and warm for inner wear, and I settled on this. If you only want to watch one game, the N-3B will be enough, but if you want to sit for 5 hours with the maximum temperature being only 6 degrees Celsius, this will be useful.
＊＊ Thermal gear #4: Thermal pants ＊＊
These are the same as the thermal cargo pants I used last week, but with a closed hem.
So, with this equipment, I headed for the Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium.
The first match of the day was Waseda University Rugby Club vs Meiji University Rugby Club. It is a golden card among Japanese rugby fans. Except for the Rugby World Cup, this is the match that attracts the most spectators in Japan. This is the first time for me to watch this “Waseda vs Meiji” game at a stadium. This time, I was able to get this ticket by lottery. Here is a brief introduction of the two schools.
Waseda University Rugby Club:
Waseda University Rugby Club: 2nd place in the Kanto University Rugby rivalry group in 2021. The uniform is a red and black stripe pattern jersey. The traditional team tactics are “close”, “continuous”, and “development”. It is the same tactics as the Japanese national team in the past.
Meiji University Rugby Club:
2021 Kanto University Rugby 3rd place in the rivalry group. The uniform is a white and navy blue stripe pattern jersey. In contrast to the tactics of Waseda University, the team traditionally constructs matches with tactics based on strong FW.
The weather on the day of the match was fine and sunny. The temperature was 6 degrees Celsius. The advance tickets were sold out. I can say that I was very lucky to get the ticket. In contrast, the two quarterfinal matches of the University Championship to be held on the same day and at the same time at the Kumagaya Rugby Stadium have sold less than 30% of their tickets. What is the difference?
Let the games begin. In university rugby, players are replaced every year, so there are waves of strength and weakness in the teams. However, in the past five years, both Waseda University and Meiji University have become the best university in Japan, and their strength is very close. As a sign of this, it has become difficult to win both the rivalry game and the university championships game in a row. So, will Meiji University, which lost in the December 4th match, be able to make up for the loss in this match?
I thought that Meiji University, a slow starter, was fired up from the start of the game, and within 1 minute and 30 seconds of the first half, FL Kido of Meiji scored a try in the left corner. （The conversion goal failed.) The score was 0-5, and Meiji scored first.
Now, both sides turned on each other to see if they could get a point. Then, in the 7th minute of the first half, Waseda University successfully picked up the ball after charging the opponent’s kick, developed to the left in front of the goal, and finally, Waseda’s WTB Koizumi scored a try in the left corner. However, just before the goal line, Meiji University’s SH Iinuma sent him slightly out of the touch line. That was not scored.
The next scoring opportunity came again for Waseda University. The SO Ito took the ball and ran over 60m alone to score a try in the left middle. However, Ito’s legs were terribly fast. The Meiji players who were chasing him gave up midway. Ito scored the conversion goal himself, and Waseda was up 7-5.
Immediately after that, Meiji scored a PG in enemy territory and reversed the score to 7-8. However, Waseda soon scored a PG and took the lead, 10-8. In the middle of the first half, it was a back-and-forth affair. The key man for Waseda on this day was CTB Osada. During Waseda’s attacks, he repeatedly penetrated Meiji’s defensive net. However, the other key man for Waseda, FB Kawase, was thoroughly marked by Meiji University and was not allowed to do any decisive work.
Then, in the 35th minute of the first half, the game changed. In the 35th minute of the first half, Waseda developed to the left in front of the opponent’s goal, and finally prop Kobayashi broke through the defensive net and scored a try in the middle left corner. After the try, the conversion goal failed and Waseda University led by 7 points, 15-8.
The first half ended like this. The game was almost evenly matched. However, since the University Championship is a tournament, a loss would mean the end of the season, so both teams would like to have a victory.
The second half of the game started. Meiji University came close to the Waseda goal several times, and the FW players tried to break through. In the 10th minute of the second half, Meiji prop Ohga finally scored a try in the right middle.
The conversion goal failed. The score became 13-15, and Meiji University closed the gap to two points.
After this, 14 minutes into the second half. Waseda University developed near the half way and SO Ito broke through the Meiji’s defensive network and made a big gain. There were many following players of Waseda, and everyone in the crowd thought that it would be a try right under the goal post by Waseda. However, Waseda SH Miyao knocked on the last pass. There was no score.
Then, in the 29th minute of the second half. Prop Ohga scored his second try of the day, this time in the middle left corner. The conversion goal was also successful, and the score was 15-20, giving Meiji University a 7-point lead.
With 10 minutes remaining, Meiji University chose to scrum every time there was a foul, cutting down the time and eventually ending the game. For Waseda University, missing the decisive moment in the 14th minute of the second half became the fatal cause of defeat.
The winner, Meiji University, will advance to the semifinals on January 2nd.
I was impressed by the tears of Meiji University’s Ohga, who scored two tries, right after the game. This game must have been very special for the players of both schools.
The 1st game ended around 1:10 p.m. and there were 50 minutes until the 2nd game kicked off. If the temperature were a little higher, it would be easier to spend the time, but with such cold weather, even just watching the second game would be a painful experience if you don’t have adequate protection against the cold.
Today’s second match: Teikyo University Rugby Club vs Doshisha University Rugby Club.
A brief introduction of both schools.
Teikyo University Rugby Club:
Kanto University Rugby Rivalry Group 1st place. They are strong in both FW and BK, and have won this season without any trouble so far. In many games, the game was decided in the first half because they came at us with all their might from the beginning of the game. The only game with a close margin was Meiji University.
Doshisha University Rugby Club:
Kansai University A League, 4th place. In this season’s Kansai League, the power of Tenri University, last year’s University champion, was not as prominent as in previous years, so the power of the top schools was very close. This season, Doshisha University, like Waseda, is oriented toward development rugby and has good players in BK. The focus of the match was how far Doshisha University’s FW could go against Teikyo University’s FW, the number one team in Kanto.
And what stunned me before the start of the match was the movement of the audience. The audience that was packed (about 10,000 people) during the first game, more than half of them left without watching the second game at the start.
The tickets for this day were good value tickets that allow you to watch two games in a row, but most of the audience came only for the first game between Waseda and Meiji. Teikyo University has won nine consecutive student championships and has produced many national representatives, but they are still not as popular as Waseda University and Meiji University. I was a little disappointed before the game started, but anyway, the first half of the game started.
In the first two minutes, Teikyo University formed a maul in front of the opponent’s goal and moved forward, and Teikyo lock Aoki easily scored a try. I wish Doshisha University had put up more of a fight.
After this, Teikyo University continued to show the difference in strength. In the first half, Doshisha University gave up 7 tries to Teikyo University, and the score was 45-5, giving Teikyo University a 40-point lead. Especially in the 20th minute of the first half, Teikyo University’s FB Taninaka broke through the Doshisha University’s defensive network by himself and scored a try after passing 6 players, which excited the whole audience. The whole audience went wild!
At this point, the game was decided, and the audience began to leave their seats one after another. Even the person in front of me, who was waving a Doshisha University cheering flag, was too sad to watch anymore and left.
In addition to the fact that the game turned out to be a one-sided game for Teikyo, the bitter cold was so unbearable that the audience started to leave one after another even in the middle of the second half. If you don’t bring the perfect winter gear, you won’t be able to stand watching two games for about five hours. I didn’t wear gloves to operate the camera until the first game, but by the second game, I couldn’t stand it and had to wear gloves with both hands to take pictures.
Then the second half began. Teikyo University threw in reserve players one after another as soon as the game started, as the winner was almost decided. Doshisha University’s defensive pressure decreased, and their signature attack began to work. Looking at the score of the second half alone, the game ended with Teikyo University leading by 15 points, 31-19. It was better than the first half, but the final score was 76-24, with Teikyo University winning by a whopping 52 points. Looking at the score alone, the difference in points was as if a professional team and a student team had played a game. By the end of the game, there were only about 2,000 spectators left.
With this, the top four teams in the University Championship are now complete.
The pairings for the semifinals on January 2nd are
Game 1: Tokai University vs. Meiji University
Game 2: Teikyo University vs Kyoto Sangyo University
The first-place teams from the Kanto and Kansai leagues won their matches in order. The next game will be held at the National Stadium in Tokyo, and we hope to see a fierce battle that will blow away the cold.