(Author: Azul, February 28th, 2022)
On February 26th, 2022, Japan Rugby League One Division 1 reached its seventh match of the season. The standings as of now are as shown in the table below.
|6||Tokyo Brave Lupas||3||3||0||15|
|7||Black Rams Tokyo||2||4||0||12|
|9||Green Rockets Tokatsu||2||4||0||10|
|10||Red Hurricanes Osaka||2||4||0||9|
|11||Shizuoka Blue Revs||1||5||0||5|
|12||Shining Arks Tokyo Bay||1||5||0||4|
The only team that has won all their matches is the top ranked team, Sungoliath. However, they are scheduled to play the Wild Knights, who have won all their matches except for the non-conference loss, on February 26.
The game I went to watch this time was between the 2nd place Spears and the 3rd place Verblitz.
The venue for the game was the Edogawa Athletic Stadium, the Spears’ home stadium. The nearest station is Nishi-Kasai station on the Tozai subway line. It’s a 15-minute walk from the station.
As the name suggests, you will be crossing the Edogawa River. It was quite a nice view. I got the impression that there were more people on their way to the station than last season.
From the station, it’s about 1.5km away. The weather was fine and the temperature was 13 degrees Celsius, which was comfortable for watching rugby.
The number of spectators at the stadium was 3,772, according to the official announcement. The maximum capacity of the stadium is 7,000 people, so it was a good turnout. From a business standpoint, the Spears were successful.
The supporters wearing orange shirts, the team’s color, were conspicuous, and the team is building a close relationship with the community.
Now, let me introduce the two teams for today’s match.
The starting lineup for the home team, KUBOTA Spears, is as follows.
|2||Malkolm Marx||189cm||117kg||27||South Africa ４４cap|
|8||Faulua Maikisi||187cm||112kg||24||Japan 2cap|
|10||Bernard Foley||182cm||89kg||32||Australia 71cap|
|12||Harumichi Tatekawa||180cm||93kg||32||Japan 55cap|
|13||Sione Teaupa||183cm||97kg||29||Japan 3cap|
|15||Gerhard Van Den Heever||192cm||102kg||32||Japan|
They finished in the top four in the Top League last season, and are currently ranked second in Division One of this season’s League One. Looking at their matches so far this season, I can see that they have improved their skills compared to last season. In particular, their FW set plays are more stable than last year.
＊＊ Players to watch ＊＊
Malkolm Marx: Position: Hooker. 189cm, 117kg, 27 years old. He will join the team in 2020. Representative of South Africa. Considered to be one of the best hookers in the world, he is at the forefront of the Spears’ scrum and is a master at winning the ball in dense battles.
（The player on the left is Malkolm Marx)
Next, let’s take a look at today’s opponent, Verblitz.
Their starting lineup for the day is as follows.
|1||Shogo Miura||180cm||113kg||26||Japan 7cap|
|3||Yusuke Kizu||178cm||112kg||26||Japan 3cap|
|5||Patrick Tuipulotu||198cm||120kg||28||New Zealand 41cap|
|6||Peter-Steph Du Toit||200cm||120kg||29||South Africa 58cap|
|7||Masato Furukawa||179cm||95kg||25||Japan 2cap|
|8||Kazuki Himeno||187cm||112kg||27||Japan 22cap|
|13||William Tupou||188cm||101kg||31||Japan 3cap|
|15||Willie Le Roux||186cm||90kg||32||South Africa 70cap|
The Verblitz finished in the top four in last year’s Top League, and are currently in third place in Division One of this season’s League One. Many of their regular players have experience in the Japanese national team and other national teams, and their depth of players is second to none.
＊＊ Players to watch ＊＊
Kenta Fukuda: Position: Scrum-half. 173cm, 80kg, 25 years old. He graduated from Meiji University. As a senior at Meiji University, he was the captain of the team that won the University Championship. He was a star player at university, but the Verblitz’s thick ranks prevented him from joining the team. In his third year with the team, he finally got a chance to play in the starting lineup. He has exceptional running ability and can play as a WTB. He is expected to join the Japanese national team at an early stage.
Now, let’s start the match.
As the two teams are very close in ability, the game started off well.
3 minutes into the first half: a foul by the opposing team gave them a chance to score a PG. Spears’ SO Foley scored the first goal with a successful PG. The score was 3-0.
The Verblitz had a PG opportunity, and SO Crinie scored the goal. The score was 3-3.
19 minutes into the first half: The Spears entered the enemy territory and moved to the left. Left WTB Nezuka, making his first start of the official match, received the ball on the left edge of the field and made a huge gain to the goal. At this point, Spears’ FW quickly gathered and made a side attack. At the end, No.8 Makisi scored a try in the left middle. After the try, SO Foley scored the conversion goal to make the score 10-3, and Spears led by 7 points.
21 minutes into the first half: The Verblitz were slow to gather in a dense battle, and when they do get their own ball, Spears is quick to get it back.
Spears tackled a Verblitz back who deploys the ball, and a quick follow-up player catches up with him, resulting in a turnover. Spears continued to roll out to the right, and SO Foley was able to get to the right end, and right WTB Kim ran into it. Kim ran in front of the goal and passed to SH Taniguchi who followed him. Taniguchi scored a try in the right middle. After the try, SO Foley scored the conversion goal to give Spears a 14-point lead.
31 minutes into the first half: The game was in the hands of the Spears at every contact point. Verblitz, looking to get back into the game, won a lineout in front of the opponent’s goal. The Verblitz team won the ball from a lineout in front of the opponent’s goal and formed a maul. The maul was crushed by Spears, but from there the Verblitz’s SH Fukuda deployed. Pretending to move to the right, Fukuda took advantage of the moment and broke through the defensive net. Fukuda went around the center of the goal with his speed and scored a try. After the try, SO Clonie converted the goal to make the score The score became 17-10.
The first half ended with the Spears leading by 7 points.
It was halftime. It was unfortunately raining when we came here last season, but today was a fine day at the Edogawa Athletic Field. It’s nice to see Tokyo Sky Tree behind the main stand here.
The home team, Spears, seemed to be familiar with the fans in this area. And I noticed a lot of supporters wearing orange Spears baseball shirts. I was also struck by the fact that the play-by-play announcer here was trying to be neutral, even though they were the home team. Normally, the home team announcer would only make a fuss when the home team scored, but even when the visiting team scored, he treated it as if it was the same. Could it be that someone from the ward office is the announcer?
Then, the second half started.
6 minutes into the second half: At the end of the first half, one Spears player was temporarily sent off, but he used the time well and invited the other team to commit a foul. This led to a PG. SO Foley scored it, and the score was 20-10. And Spears took a 10-point lead.
9 minutes into the second half: Spears, despite being a man down, launched a wave of attacks in the enemy territory. Gradually, they got closer and closer to the goal line, and just when they were about to score a try, Verblitz’s SO Cronie intercepted the pass. He ran about 90 meters to score a try right under the goal posts. After the try, he scored the conversion goal by himself to make the score 20-17. And Verblitz was within three points.
18 minutes into the second half: The Spears set up a maul from a lineout in front of the opposition goal and pushed forward. Finally, hooker Marx scored a try, and after the conversion goal, the score was 27-17, a 10-point lead for Spears.
23 minutes into the second half: The Verblitz team was in a crowded area when Spears was penalized for side-stepping into the crowd. Verblitz’s SO Cronie chose to go for the PG, and despite being almost 45 meters away, he succeeded. The score was 27-20, and Verblitz was within 7 points.
26 minutes into the second half: Spears started to take control of the ball and had more time to develop. After a long series of attacks, SO Foley rolled a punt long and hard to the left corner, where left WTB Nezuka caught it and passed it to flanker Labuschagne and he scored a try. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, and the score was 34-20, giving Spears a 14-point lead.
35th minute: From a lineout in front of the enemy’s goal, Spears formed a maul and pushed forward for a try, which was scored by hooker Marx. It was his second try of the day. SO Foley scored the conversion goal after the try, and the score was 41-20, giving Spears a 21-point lead.
And the game ended with Spears winning by 5 points. As Sungoliath lost the match of this day. Spears took the lead.