(Author: Azul, May 31, 2022)
The Japan Rugby League One Play-offs began this week on May 22, 2022, and only three matches remain in the League One competition.
The remaining matches are
5/22 Semi-Final 2: Wild Knights vs Spears
5/28 3rd place game
5/29 Final match
Semi-Final 1: Suntory Sungoliath vs Toshiba Brave Lupas was played on 5/21 at Osaka Hanazono Rugby Ground and Sungoliath won 30-24.
The Semi-Final 2 will be between Wild Knights and Spears. The match was played at the Chichibunomiya Rugby Ground in Minato-ku, Tokyo. Even though it was still May, the temperature rose to 27 degrees Celsius, and it was early summer weather.
However, the crowd was huge that day. The number of visitors exceeded that of the opening match, recording 15,353.
Still, we have not yet regained the momentum we had right after the 2019 RWC. At that time, until the new Corona started, we had over 30.000 spectators in a normal league match. That was followed a few months later by the onslaught of the new Corona, which was held as a no-show game and attendance limits were drawn. Although the new corona has not yet subsided, we were finally able to attract more than 10,000 spectators to the Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium. It has only been three years, but it feels like a long time.
Also, considering that the previous day’s promotion deciding match between the Division 1 and Division 2 teams drew approximately 3,000 spectators, we were reminded of the popularity of the playoff matches.
Let me introduce the two teams that will play today. First up is the Saitama Wild Knights.
The champion team that won the Top League last year aims to become the first champion of the new League One this season. This season, the team lost the first and second games due to several cases of new corona infection in the team. However, the team has since won all 14 of its matches to advance to the playoffs.
The undefeated champions, Wild Knights, have a strong group of players and seem to be a world-class team. Which team will be able to stop Wild Knights’ winning streak?
Today’s starting lineup is as follows.
|Saitama Wild Nights|
|1||Keita Inagaki||186cm||116kg||31||Japan 39cap|
|2||Atsushi Sakade||180cm||104kg||28||Japan 27cap|
|4||Daniel Heenan||196cm||111kg||40||Australia 2cap|
|8||Jack Cornelsen||195cm||110kg||27||Japan 6cap|
|10||Takuya Yamasawa||176cm||84kg||27||Japan 3cap|
|11||Marika Koroibete||182cm||96kg||29||Australia 42cap|
|12||Hadleigh Parkes||187cm||107kg||34||Wales 29cap|
|13||Dylan Riley||187cm||102kg||24||Japan 4cap|
|15||Ryuji Noguchi||177cm||83kg||26||Japan 13cap|
＊＊ Players to watch out for ＊＊
Takuya Yamasawa. 176 cm, 84 kg, 27 years old. For the Wild Knights, Matsuda has been starting as the SO, and Yamasawa has been starting in the middle of the second half as the SO. However, Matsuda left the team late in the season with an injury, and Yamazawa was chosen as the starter. Compared to Matsuda’s orthodox SO style of play, Yamazawa chooses a more aggressive style of play, with more kicks and runs. This season, he was selected as a candidate for Japan’s national team and is expected to gain game experience at a higher level.
Next, Kubota Spears.
Spears has strengthened its players in recent years and is now a regular participant in the playoffs. In particular, they boast the league’s No. 1 strength in FW set plays. The team’s lineup has also grown stronger, and the strength of the FW players, especially those who come on in the second half of the season, poses a threat to opposing teams.
The BK players of Spears, whose young players are growing, also have the decisive power to score tries.
The starting lineup for today’s match is as follows
|3||Kengo Kitagawa||178cm||110kg||29||Japan 3cap|
|7||Pieter L. Labus Chagne||189cm||106kg||32||Japan 13cap|
|8||Faulua Makisi||187cm||112kg||24||Japan 2cap|
|10||Bernard Foley||182cm||89kg||32||Australia 71cap|
|12||Harumichi Tatekawa||180cm||93kg||32||Japan 55cap|
|13||Ryan Crotty||181cm||94kg||23||New Zealand 46cap|
|15||Gerhard Van Den Heever||192cm||102kg||32||Japan|
＊＊ Players to watch out for ＊＊
Jaba Bregvatze. 182 cm, 105 kg, 35 years old. He has a cap of 67 for Georgia.
Spears has a strong FW, but their mainstay hooker, Marx, is out with an injury. This has caused the Spears to struggle a bit in scrums and lineouts. To compensate for this, Jaba was urgently recruited. Java has played 27 games for the Sun Wolves, Japan’s only SUPER RUGBY team. Java win popularity, having played 27 games for the Sun Wolves, Japan’s only SUPER RUGBY team. Although he has been with League One for only a month or so, he is expected to make an impact on the team.
Let the match begin.
6 minutes into the first half:
In the first maul they set up, the Spears were able to push with force. However, the Wild Knights took advantage of the dense battle and skillfully broke through the maul and ruck skids.
As the Wild Knights entered the enemy territory, lock Haangana broke through the side of a formed maul, got behind the Spears defensive net, and moved forward at once to the left. The SO Yamazawa received the ball and brought it into the in-goal for a try almost in the center of the field. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, and the score was 7-0 to the Wild Knights.
15 minutes into the first half:
The Spears pushed the Wild Knights hard in a scrum after entering enemy territory, giving them the opportunity to take a penalty kick. The Speares opted to go for the PG, which was converted by the SO Foley and made the score 7-3.
From this time on, the Spears’ big FWs came into their own, taking control of the game in enemy territory. However, the Wild Knights’ defensive network also cut back when it looked like they might score, and the stalemate continued.
38 minutes into the first half:
The Wild Knights’ defense did its best to hold off the Spears as they came close to scoring again and again.
The Spears moved to the left in an attempt to score a try at this point. The Spears threw a pass to a player on the left end, which was intercepted by the Wild Knights’ WTB Takeyama. Takeyama got behind the Spears’ defensive line and went straight forward. The Spears FB Van Den Heever chased him hard, but Takeyama ran 100 meters to score a delightful try in the middle of the enemy’s in-goal. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 14-3 in favor of the Wild Knights.
The first half ended with the score at 14-3. The Wild Knights’ WTB Takeyama’s try, a coup de grace, changed the course of the game at the end of the first half. It was a bitter blow for the Spears, who again attacked the enemy line, but failed to score any points.
It was halftime, but there was no halftime show on this day. The game went into the second half with the lingering effects of the first half still fresh in the minds of the players.
11 minutes into the second half:
The Wild Knights had a penalty kick opportunity when the flanker Gunter was fouled in a tight battle in the opponents’ half. The Wild Knights opted to go for the PG and the SO Yamazawa made a steady run to make the score 17-3.
24 minutes into the second half:
The Wild Knights gradually began to get on equal footing in the FW game when the hooker Sakate was replaced by Horie in the second half.
In front of the enemy in-goal, they formed a maul and moved forward to score a try by the hooker Horie in the left center. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, and the score was 24-3 to the Wild Knights.
42 minutes into the second half
After the horn sounded for the last play of the half, the Spires’ frontline made a relentless charge at the goal. Finally, prop Helu scored a try in the right center of the field. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the final score 24-10.
- Player of the match ＊
WTB Takeyama of the Wild Knights was selected as the Player of the match. Takeyama’s 100-meter solo try, scored at the end of the first half after intercepting the ball, changed the course of the game. Takeyama also made a notable defensive contribution in the match. He has been selected as a candidate for the Japan national team this season, and is expected to play an active role in the national team.
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