(Author: Azul, July 16, 2022)
One week after the first test match between Japan and France on July 2, 2022, the second test match was held at the National Stadium in Shinjuku, Tokyo.
The temperature was a summer-like 31 degrees Celsius. It was not the murderous heat of last week’s match at Toyota Stadium. There was a slightly cool breeze, and it was cooler in the shade. However, if you stayed in the sun, it was still quite hot, and if you did not take proper precautions, you might suffer from heat stroke.
The Japan Rugby Union announced in advance that more than 50,000 advance tickets had already been sold, making it the largest attendance in Japan’s Test Match history. This means that this year’s Test Match has finally regained the same level of popularity as the RWC in its final round.
The photo above shows the Japan Olympic Museum near the National Stadium. It is located between the National Stadium and the Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, and is a good place to meet up.
Today’s game will start at 14:50. Unfortunately, I have never seen the Japanese national team beat a higher-ranked country in a match I have watched. Will this day’s match put an end to that record?
On this day, I entered the stadium one hour before the game started. Based on my experience at Toyota Stadium last week, I took a seat behind the goal on the north side this time. However, it turned out to be a mistake. The National Stadium was still exposed to direct sunlight at this time. We should have chosen the south goal back, which was shaded by the sun.
First, let’s start with the home team, the Brave Blossoms of Japan. The starting lineup is as follows.
|3||Asaeri Ai VALU||178cm||112kg||26||5|
|14||Gerhard von den HEEVER||192cm||102kg||33||2|
The changes from last week’s first test match are
Rock DEARNS and WAQA are in the starting lineup. Both of them are over 2 meters tall. They surpassed the French team in height.
This is quite reliable.
And SAITO came in at SH. SAITO was a starter in the game against the Uruguayan national team, but he was absent last week due to a positive test for the new strain of corona. With SAITO in the team, we will be able to see Brave Blossoms’ strength, which is their quick succession of attacks.
＊＊ Players to watch out for ＊＊
Ryohei Yamanaka is 188 cm, 98 kg. 33 years old. He is a FB who boasts international standards in both size and speed. He was a SO in his high school and university, so he also has good vision in the game. One drawback is that his form is a bit erratic. If he could increase the certainty of his play during games, he could become a great player unrivaled by any other.
Next up is Les Bleus, the French representative on the Visitor Team.
This day’s starting lineup was as follows.
The starting lineup is the same as in the first test, except for SPRING, the FB. What will Les Bleus show in today’s match? Will they push around with their powerful FWs, or will they show their ability to develop their attack in a variety of ways?
＊＊ Players to watch ＊＊
Damian PENAUD, 188 cm, 93 kg, 25 years old. This year’s French national team was made up mainly of young and inexperienced players. However, PENAUD is the ace of the French BK players, boasting Cap 33 at the age of 25. As his record shows, he is a decisive player who is difficult to stop when free or in one-on-one situations.
Let the match begin.
9 minutes into the first half:
After conceding the first score in the first test match last week, Brave Blossoms wanted to score first in today’s match. From the start of the match, the two teams went back-and-forth. After a few minutes, SO JALIBERT kicked the ball to the right end where no Blossoms players were present. Ymanaka caught up to him, but he was too busy holding the ball himself to get it out. This was an exquisite touch kick, and Les Blues had a lineout of their own ball at the right edge of the enemy in-goal. The Bleus won it and moved left to WTB LEBEL on the left edge of the in-goal. Both WTBs of Les Bleus were decisive. The conversion goal after the try was successful, making the score 0-7, and France took the lead again in the second test match.
12 minutes into the first half:
From a scrum after Les Bleus kicked off, SO JALIBERT kicked deep into the enemy territory. From here, the Blossoms launched a counter attack. The ball went from WTB to FB to CTB to CTB→WTB→WTB→FB, and finally FB YAMANAKA received the ball and got a try at the left center of in-goal of the enemy territory. The crowd of 57,000 people was screaming with excitement. The conversion goal after the try failed. The score was 5-7.
The score was 5-7. It was a great attack, typical of the Blossoms.
18 minutes into the first half.
The Blossoms continued their offensive attack after this. Unlike in the first test match, the Blossoms mixed their attack with kicks. After several kicking exchanges between the two teams, the Blossoms’ WTB von den HEEVER counter-attacked deep to the right of his own half and dodged some enemy players, then kicked the ball deep into the opposite side. Les Bleus barely escaped with a touch kick from their own in-goal. The Blossoms continued to attack, and from a lineout, they made a series of attacks in front of their own in-goal. The Blossoms’ SO LEE took the penalty kick and made the score 8-7.
As a side note, Mr. Adamson of the Scottish Association was the referee for this match. He was a very strict referee, and both teams were given many Not Straight penalties at the lineout. It was difficult to deal with these infractions in the match, as they could change the tide of the match.
40 minutes of the first half:
The Blossoms had another sparkling attack in the closing minutes of the first half.
As Les Bleus entered the enemy territory, they deployed to the right and the ball was passed to WTB PENAUD, their trump card on the right edge of the field. Blossoms FB YAMANAKA was on the mark. He was once untackled, but he was able to chase down PENAUD was pushed off the sideline. The Blossoms attacked from the own ball lineout. The ball came out of the cluster and flowed from SO → FB → Hooker → CTB → Right flanker → Left flanker → FB. And finally FB YAMANAKA received the ball at the last moment and ran around the center of the enemy’s in-goal to score a try.
During the entire attack, the stadium was filled with the screams of the crowd.
The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 15-7. The Blossoms ended the first half in the best possible way.
Here we are at halftime. Looking back at the first half, Brave Blossoms have been refining their attacking shape for this match. They scored two tries from brilliant passing and sent the crowd into a frenzy. One set piece that was not so well executed was the lineout. We had two 2-meter jumpers in our lineup, but this was a waste of their talent. At the very least, I would like to see the teams secure 100% of the ball in their own lineouts.
Both teams will make sure to make corrections at halftime, and we look forward to a good game in the second half.
Let’s get the second half underway.
4 minutes into the second half:
A great Blossoms started the second half with a series of good tackles and Les Bleus started the game with sharp counter attacks. The Blossoms were then penalized for offsides deep in their own territory. Les Bleus then chose to go for the PG and SH LUCU made a solid shot from the front of the goal post to make the score 15-10.
Up until this time, the Blossoms were very solid defensively. In the first test match, the Blossoms’ defensive network, which had been broken by the quick rushes of the Les Bleus’ FWs, did not collapse this time. The two sides therefore remained in a scoreless stalemate.
20 minutes into the second half:
The two sides engaged in a densely contested turnover, which made for a very entertaining match. However, Les Bleus was able to get deep into enemy territory. And their attack made the Blossoms to draw a penalty, Not release the ball, and Les Bleus elected to go for the PG. SO JALIBERT made a steady kick to make the score 15-13. Les Bleus was now within 2 points.
31 minutes into the second half:
Les Bleus pushed for a scrum a little way into enemy territory. The Blossoms held on, but Les Bleus kept the ball on the edge of the scrum, and when a stalemate ensued, replacement SH COUILLOUD broke through from the right edge of the scrum. The Blossoms were unable to catch COUILLOUD scored a try right under the goal post. Les Bleus finally succeeded in turning the tables. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 15-20.
With less than 10 minutes remaining in the match, the 50,000-plus crowd at the stadium was ready for the Brave Blossoms’ final offensive push.
31 minutes into the second half:
The cheers of the crowd were too much for the Les Bleus players. The crowd’s support weighed heavily on the Les Bleus players. After the try, the Blossoms kicked off the ball to Les Bleus FB Bleus FB Spring, the FB of Les Bleus, unexpectedly dropped the ball. The Blossoms had an opportunity to scrum for their own ball in front of the enemy goal line without much effort. From there, they deployed a series of attacks to push forward. Les Bleus committed a penalty and the Blossoms opted for a penalty kick to score a try. The ball went to the No.8 TATAFU, who dragged three opposing defenders down the field and scored a try right in the middle of the field.
At this moment, there was a huge shout from the crowd and everyone was convinced that Brave Blossoms had won the game. I, too, forgot that I was watching the game wearing a French jersey and started yelling as loud as I could.
However, the TMO made a video decision, and the Blossoms’ try by TATAFU was disallowed due to a knock-on penalty. What a pity.
After this, the Brave Blossoms had two chances to score, but were unable to do so. The final score was 15-20 in favor of the French team, Les Bleus. With this victory, Les Bleus will be ranked No. 1 in the world in a few days.
After the match, I heard some female fans on the way home saying, “I thought we would lose by a bigger margin, but it was so close. The RWC2023 in France is only about a year away. I hope for the success of the tournament and remarkable progress of Brave Blossoms.
＊＊ Jersey Collection 62 ＊＊
This is a replica jersey of the French national rugby team from an estimated 1996. I bid 6,350 yen for it on Yahoo! Auctions. The French national team jersey is very popular, so there is always a bidding war. This time, too, there were three bidders, and the price went up. I wanted to bid around 4,000 yen, but in the end I was too stubborn. I wanted to get this jersey at any cost, because they are rarely sold.
The base color is white, so it is a second jersey.
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