（Author: Azul, August 26, 2022）
On August 20, 2022, the Japanese women’s national rugby team: SAKURA 15 played their third test match of the summer against the Irish women’s national team. The previous test match against the South African Women’s National Team resulted in a win and a loss, but what will happen in the match against the Irish Women’s National Team?
The venue this time was the Ecopa Stadium in Fukuroi City, Shizuoka Prefecture. On this day, too, the match will start at 19:00, which is a night time event. If the game starts at 19:00, the game will end at 22:00, so it will be difficult to catch a train back home. During the RWC, many international supporters had to arrange accommodations in Shizuoka Prefecture to be able to watch the games with peace of mind. This is something that needs to be improved in the future.
This time, I drove my car from my home in Hachioji City to the stadium. The one-way trip was 210 km, and it took me 3.5 hours on the highway.
On a side note, I found an unusual information board at an expressway SA in Shizuoka Prefecture.
The picture above is a guide to what to do in case of an accident at a nuclear power plant. The Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station is located in Shizuoka Prefecture. The sign warns of the consequences in the event of a major Tokai earthquake, which is expected to occur in the near future, causing a radiation leak at the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station. The national and local governments are preparing to respond to the situation, but it is a bit scary.
I left home at 14:00 and arrived at the ECOPA stadium at 17:45.
The good thing about the Ecopa stadium is that there are many parking lots and the fee is free. The Kumagaya Rugby Stadium charged 3,000 yen for 3 hours, which is as expensive as a first-class parking lot in the city center, but I think it is a little too expensive.
For rugby fans around the world, this stadium is famous for “SHIZUOKA SHOCK”. This is the stadium where the Irish national team, ranked second in the world, suffered an upset loss to the Japanese national team in the RWC 2019.
The statue in the photo above was made to commemorate the match. This time, the women’s national teams of both countries were to play each other in the same stadium.
I arrived at the stadium at almost 6 p.m., but it was still early evening.
The seating capacity of the ECOPA Stadium is 45,000. What kind of game will they play?
Let me introduce the two teams playing today.
First, let me introduce the visiting team, the Women’s Ireland National Team.
As of August 21, the Irish national team is ranked 7th in the world. Unfortunately, they will not be able to participate in the Women’s RWC this fall, as they were defeated in the European qualifying round.
This day’s starting lineup were as follows.
This year’s team was basically made up of members with an eye on the RWC to be held in four years. Four of the starters would be making their first caps. This was a team that encourages young members to gain experience and grow. If the Japanese national team, which will be competing against a superior team, will be able to take advantage of this, it will be in this area.
＊＊ Players to watch ＊＊
Dannah O’Brien is 18 years old, 168 cm, 68 kg. At 18 years of age, she is a promising young player who will play a key role as a game-maker for the Irish national team. Her calm play and accurate place kicking, which belies her age, led to her selection for this year’s tournament.
Next, I would like to introduce the home team, the Japanese women’s national team, SAKURA 15.
This is their third test match this summer, and they will play a match against a superior team, the Irish national team. Unlike the previous years, the team was able to organize four strengthening matches in Japan just before the RWC, which is a big step forward for the strengthening system. Rugby is a sport in which Giant Killing is not likely to occur, and this test match is expected to be a tough one. The test matches on this day are expected to be tough. We hope that this strengthening match will be a step forward, and we look forward to a good fight in the RWC.
Today’s starting members are as follows
＊＊ Players to watch ＊＊
Rinka MATSUDA. 170cm, 75kg, 20 years old. Although she is only 20 years old, she is a mainstay of the Japan national team with excellent running, defensive, and breakthrough ability. Her hard tackling as a last-resort FB shown in the first test match made a strong impression on the rugby people. She did a number of jobs to finish off opponents who were rushing forward at an accelerated pace with a single shot by herself alone. Her father, Tsutomu Matsuda, was a famous player who participated in three RWCs. We look forward to her future development as a representative player of Japan.
Now, here is my report on this match.
Despite the large stadium, the Ecopa Stadium, the attendance on the day of the match was a bit sad, with only about 1,000 spectators. The start time of the game and the surrounding accommodations need to be improved. If this were a professional team’s game, the venue rental fee would have exceeded the admission fee revenue by a large margin.
So, let the match begin.
I thought that SAKURA 15 would be pushed from the beginning of the match against the Irish team, which is a higher ranked team, but the first team to take the lead was SAKURA 15.
3 minutes into the first half
As you can see from the list of starters, the Irish national team was a bit taller than Japan in both average height and weight of FWs. Knowing this, after the kickoff, the FWs attempted a power breakthrough. However, SAKURA 15 connected the ball well and gradually made progress in the enemy’s territory. From a penalty by the opponent, SAKURA 15 got into a tight battle in front of the goal post in the enemy camp, and finally flanker Suzuki scored a try just below the goal post. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, and the score was 7-0. SAKURA 15 was able to take the lead.
5 minutes in the first half：
From the kick-off after the try, the Irish national team attacked into the Japanese camp, but were repeatedly fouled at important points and pushed back to the center line area. From there, SAKURA 15 caught the ball in the lineout, and spread it to the left. No.8 Nagai cut inside and made a big step forward. The ball was passed to CTB Matsuda, then to WTB Imakugi, who then made a great run to the in-goal. Imakugi scored a neat try in the left center of the in-goal. After the try, the conversion goal failed. The score was 12-0 and SAKURA 15 extended their lead.
11 minutes into the first half:
SAKURA 15 was pushed a little in set plays at scrums and lineouts. However, when they were able to get their own ball as a result, SAKURA 15’s attack connected and they were able to make a big gain. The ball was connected in a tight battle just inside the enemy territory, and again SAKURA 15 advanced into the Irish territory, right up to the goal posts. At this point, the Irish team committed an infringement, and SAKURA 15 selected PG. The SO Otsuka of SAKURA 15 scored to make the score 15-0.
17 minutes into the first half
The Irish national team, hoping to recover from their poor start, got deep into Japan’s territory and won the ball from a lineout on their own. The Irish team managed to get deep into Japan’s territory, and after winning the ball from a lineout on their own line, they formed a maul to push forward, then scored a try. The SO O’Brien scored the conversion goal after the try to make the score 15-7.
22 minutes into the first half.
Around this time, the Irish national team began to gradually increase their attack as their set pieces became more consistent. From a scrum on their own ball in the opposition territory, the Irish team’s inside CTB Dalton dummied outside CTB Breen as a dummy and cut to the outside. She then connected with FB Deely who joined the line, and finally WTB Doyle received the ball and scored a try at the left edge of the enemy’s in-goal. The conversion goal after the try failed.
The score was 15-12.
30 minutes into the first half.
Here was a bit of a surprise. The Irish team had just entered the enemy territory, almost at the halfway mark, when they were fouled by their opponents. The Irish team opted to go for the PG. The distance was about 45 meters. Even the men’s national team players were not sure if they would be able to get in at this distance, but No. 8 O’Connor attempted it.
The result was a miss, but she almost made it. The power of the Irish team was astonishing.
41 minutes into the first half:
After the horn sounded for the last play, Ireland went on the offensive. The Irish team moved in on the opposition’s in-goal, where they attacked with a series of attacks using their strong front line players. In the end, the Irish team deployed to the right from a tight group, and CTB Dalton broke through the opposition’s defense and scored a try right in the middle of the in-goal. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 15-19, and the Irish national team succeeded in making a comeback.
Looking back at the first half, SAKURA 15 dominated until the 11th minute. Since the Irish national team had a team composition including many players in their first cap, I thought it would be an easy win for SAKURA 15, or so I I thought it would be an easy win for SAKURA 15. However, from then on, the Irish national team dominated the game from start to finish, and SAKURA 15 was almost on the defensive. Can SAKURA 15 turn the tide in the second half?
Let’s start the second half.
2 minutes into the second half
SAKURA 15 wanted to break the bad trend that had continued from the first half, but it was the Irish team again that scored the first score.
The game started with a kickoff by the Irish team, and Japan committed a foul in the first corner. The Irish team won the ball in their own lineout, and again formed a maul to push forward and score an easy try. The try was scored by Irish hooker Jones, her second of the day. The conversion attempt after the try failed, making the score 15-24.
13 minutes into the second half.
The Irish national team had a scrum in the enemy territory, and drew an infringement from SAKURA 15. From there, the Irish team opted for a penalty kick, which resulted in a lineout for their own ball. SAKURA 15 was then left helpless against the Irish team, and a maul led to a try. The try was scored by hooker Jones, her third try of the day. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 15-31.
On this day, the Irish national team created a scoring pattern of penalty, lineout, maul, and try in enemy territory, which SAKURA 15 could do nothing about. SAKURA 15 was in a vicious circle.
17 minutes into the second half:
SAKURA 15 wanted to increase their attacking time, as their attack was working well on this day, but they were behind at every set play. However, they were unable to win the ball as they were behind at every set-piece.
In contrast, Ireland’s national team was able to get on the board from a BK attack near the halfway mark, with FB Deely, with perfect timing, joined the attack and ran in on her own, scoring a try in the middle left of the in-goal. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 15-38.
This Irish try was almost the same signature play as the 23rd minute play in the first half, so I wanted SAKURA 15 to respond! The score was 15-38 in the second half.
22 minutes into the second half:
SAKURA 15 finally got the ball and made a series of attacks.
At this time, SAKURA 15 finally secured the ball and made a series of attacks. SAKURA 15’s rhythm of attack was created by the SH Abe, who came in as a substitute, and they gradually advanced. SAKURA 15 induced an infringement by the opponent in front of the goal post in the enemy’s territory, and from there the SH Abe quickly propelled the ball forward. The SH Abe quickly connected the ball to prop Lavemai. She rushed into the in-goal and scored a try. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 22-38.
29 minutes into the second half
SAKURA 15 was holding their own ball in their own territory and attacking continuously. When the So of SAKURA 15 tried to kick the ball out of the pack, The ball bounced out of the pack and was charged down by lock Monaghan of the Irish national team and the prop Pierce of the Irish national team scored a try in the left in-goal. The conversion goal failed after the try. The score was 22-43.
32 minutes into the second half.
The Irish national team was able to get a little further into the enemy territory and formed a tight group from which the WTB McCabe took the ball out and scored a try in the in-goal in the middle of the right field. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 22-50.
39 minutes into the second half.
The Irish national team took a big lead with a big score and kept their concentration even in the final minutes of the match. The Irish national team entered the enemy territory, approached the opponent’s in-goal through fouls, etc., and repeated a series of attacks by the FWs in a dense area. In the end, Ireland’s hooker Hooban scored a try in the middle right of the in-goal. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, and the final score was 22-57. The Irish national team won their first test match.
The SAKURA 15 team had a tough time, but they will be looking forward to the second test match on August 27th, and hope to make the most of the lessons learned from this match to get back on track. The night game at the Ecopa Stadium was also a tough one for the SAKURA 15 team.
After the night game at the Ecopa Stadium, I headed back home, leaving at 21:30 and arriving home at 25:30. I was caught in a late-night construction traffic jam on the way home, which was a bit of a miscalculation. But for a game like this one, I think it would be more exciting to stay at a local hotel and discuss the game with my friends.
＊＊ Jersey Collection 63 ＊＊
Replica of France national rugby team 2nd jersey. Made by adidas. Sold for 5,900 yen on Yahoo! Auctions. I had a jersey of almost similar design, but the color of the FFR patch on the chest was different, so I bought it without hesitation. Whenever I see a jersey from the days when Sergiye Blanco, a player I admire, was wearing it, I want to have it.
Stop the war.
Peace to Ukraine