RUGBY JERSEY -2022-23 League One Division One play-off semi-final: Panasonic Saitama Wild Knights vs YOKOHAMA CANON EAGLES

(Author: Azul, May 28, 2023)

The 2023 Japan Rugby League One season reaches its climax. The play-off schedules are as follows:

13 May Semi-final 1: League 1st vs League 4th

14 May Semi-final 2: League 2nd vs League 3rd

19 May 3rd place play-off: loser of semi-final 1 vs loser of semi-final 2

20 May Final: winner of Semi Final 1 vs winner of Semi Final 2

This time, I watched the matches,

13 May Semi-final 1: Panasonic Wild Knights vs CANON EAGLES

The venue was Chichibunomiya Rugby Ground in Minato Ward, Tokyo, a sacred place for rugby in eastern Japan.

On the day of the match, there was an unfortunate light rain. However, despite the bad weather, there were 16,237 spectators on the day. This shows the high expectations of rugby fans in Japan.

Here is an update on the two teams for the day’s matches.

First up are the Panasonic Wild Knights, who are the 2023 League One 1st placed team. Their record this season was 15 wins-1 lose.

Last season’s League One champions, the Wild Knights head into this season’s play-offs with a second consecutive title on the line. Their only loss this season came against the Shizuoka Blue Revs on 15 Apr by a score of 25-44. The Blue Revs and Wild Knights matches are often close, but by the end the Blue Revs had the advantage in the scrums. It will be interesting to see how far Wild Knights can learn from that defeat and show their ability in this semi-final.

The starting line-up for today’s Wild Knights is as follows.

Panasonic Wild Nights
1Keita Inagaki186cm116kg31Japan 44cap
2Atsushi Sakade180cm104kg28Japan 32cap
3Asaeri Ai VALU187cm115kg29Japan 23cap
4Mark ABBOTT197cm112kg32NZ 14cap
5Lood De JAGER206cm127kg30Soth Africa 65cap
6Shota FUKUI186cm101kg23Japan
7Lachlan BOSHIER191cm104kg27 
8Jack CORNELSEN195cm110kg28Japan 11cap
9Keisuke UCHIDA179cm86kg30Japan 22cap
10Rikiya Matsuda181cm92kg28Japan 29cap
11Marika KOROIBETE182cm96kg30Australia 51cap
12Damian De ALLENDE190cm105kg31Soth Africa 68cap
13Dylan RILEY187cm102kg25Japan 9cap
14Tomoki OSADA179cm90kg23 
15Ryuji Noguchi177cm83kg27Japan 14cap

** Player to watch **

Ryuji NOGUCHI. 177 cm, 83 kg, 27 years old. Position = FB, WTB. from Tokai University. Japan national team Cap = 14. As a FB, he has the overall ability to be No.1 in Japan when it comes to dealing with the opposing team’s kicks, his unmatched accuracy, his situational judgement and his top speed. The only thing missing is that his physique is a little inferior to that of FBs from strong foreign countries. However, there are FBs under 180 cm in other countries in Tier 1, so there is a possibility that he will be selected for the Japanese squad for the RWC 2023.

By the way, I would like to introduce the CANON Eagles, who will play against the Wild Knights.

The Eagles finished fourth in League One this season (10 wins, 4 losses and 2 draws) and, for the first time since their inception, have reached the play-offs. Under the guidance of renowned coach Sawaki, the EAGLES have steadily improved their ability every year. This season, the team’s squad was further strengthened by the addition of world-class SH De KLERK from the South African national team. In this season’s matches against WildKnights.

1/28: lost 19-21.

5/13: lost 51-20.

The EAGLES have yet to win against the WildKnights, but you never know until you try.

The EAGLES starting line-up for the day is as follows.

CANON Eagles
1Takato OKABE180cm105kg28 
2Yusuke Niwai174cm95kg31Japan 10cap
3Tatsuro SUGIMOTO175cm110kg26 
4Max DOUGLAS201cm112kg22 
5Liakimatagi MOLI197cm114kg32 
6Kobus Van DYK196cm108kg28 
7Naoto Shimada181cm99kg31Japan
8Sione HARASILI180cm120kg23 
9Faf DEKLARK172cm88kg31South Africa 44cap
10Yu Tamura181cm92kg34Japan 70cap
11Chihito MATSUI183cm88kg28Japan 2cap
12Naoya MINAMIHASHI178cm86kg33 
13Jesse Kriel185cm95kg29South Africa 58cap
14Inoke BURUA178cm95kg23 
15Jumpei OGURA172cm80kg30Japan 4cap

** Player to watch **

Inoke BURUA. 178 cm, 95 kg, 23 years old. Position = WTB. born in Fiji. He combines Fijian-specific outstanding speed with strong physicality. He has been a regular member of the Eagles since joining the club, scoring tries on a regular basis. He excels in attack, but also shows strength in defence.

Now, let the game begin.

Kick-off in light rain. As the match was played in the rain, both teams tried to use kicks to gain positional advantage over each other. Early in the start, Wild Knights prop VALU made an illegal tackle and was temporarily sent off. This seemed to give the EAGLES the advantage, but it was Wild Knights who took the game to the opposition in the early stages.

14 minutes into the first half:

After an early kicking duel, the Wild Knights were aggressive in their own half, looking to push forward. They created several try-scoring opportunities, but ultimately failed to score.

The Eagles, on the other hand, made a quick move into enemy territory and, after a penalty kick following an infringement by their opponents, made a quick move forward to near the enemy in-goal. This was once again blocked by the Wild Knights, but a foul on this occasion allowed the EAGLES to maul their way through a lineout and score a try on the left side of the enemy in-goal. The try was scored by EAGLES No. 8 HARASILI.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful and the score was 0-7 to the EAGLES.

18 minutes into the first half:

Wild Knights kicked off after a try had been scored, and after entering enemy territory, the EAGLES committed a collapsing infringement in a scrum on their own ball, so they opted for a penalty kick. This was scored by SO MATSUDA to make the score 3-7.

20 minutes of the second half:

From the restart kick-off, the EAGLES made a series of attacks in enemy territory. A Wild Knights infringement in front of the opposition in-goal allowed the Eagles to get going and a long pass from SH DEKLARK to WTB BURUA, who was waiting in the right hand corner, led to BURUA scoring a try in the middle of the right flank. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 3-14.

23rd and 29th minutes of the first half:

The Wild Knights were unable to score a try, but they did force an infringement deep in enemy territory, giving them the chance to take a penalty kick, which SO MATSUDA converted with two successful strikes. The score was 9-14 to the EAGLES.

35 minutes of the first half:

The Wild Knights again went close to the opposition’s in-goal in this period, with a series of attacks. Several try opportunities were created, but the EAGLES’ defender was at every turn to deny them. However, a series of attacks saw the ball go to SO MATSUDA, who was close to the front of the goal posts, where he quickly scored a drop goal. The crowd in the stands cheered loudly for this lightning-fast move. The score was 12-14.

(SO MATSUDA’s DG was so quick that I could not get a photo in time. Shame.)

38 minutes of the first half:

The Eagles attacked in the opposition territory, and the Wild Knights kicked an in-goal drop-out from their own half, and SO TAMURA of the Eagles received the ball near the half-way line, and from that position scored a drop goal from an estimated 45 metres. The score was 12-17. I had never seen a game where both teams exchanged drop goals before. I was happy to be able to watch such a match. Maybe DG will be Japan’s secret weapon at RWC 2023.

42 minutes of the first half:

Towards the end of the first half, the Wild Nights were awarded a penalty kick after SO TAMURA of the EAGLES made a dangerous tackle on SO MATSUDA of the Wild Nights during a series of attacks by the Wild Nights in enemy territory. Wild Nights’ SO MATSUDA steadily took it, making the score 15-17.

Note that EAGLES’ SO TAMURA was temporarily sent off for 10 minutes from the start of the second half for this foul.

The first half ended with this score, with the EAGLES leading by two points at the break. However, the EAGLES will be without their commanding SO TAMURA for the first 10 minutes of the second half, and the focus of the second half will be on how far the EAGLES can stick it out.

Let’s get the second half underway.

2 minutes into the second half:

The EAGLES kicked off to start the game, and Wild Nights catched the ball from the kick off and launched a series of attacks, once kicking the ball into enemy territory, they won it again. As expected, Wild Nights started the second half with everyone stepping up a gear and not losing the ball as often.

Wild Nights used the ground wide and deployed the ball, with CTB RILEY cutting inside and coming close to the opposition’s goal posts. From the resulting tight pack, WTB KOLOIBETE sidestepped and scored a try almost directly behind the goal posts.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 22-17. Early in the second half, Wild Nights took the lead for the first time in the match.

11 minutes into the second half:

EAGLES could not let Wild Nights pull away and went on the offensive. They pushed deep into enemy territory and a move to the right saw WTB BURUA, who was on the outside, close in on the opposition in-goal, only to be pushed off his line by the Wild Nights defenders. However, Wild Nights were then fouled for offside, whereupon EAGLES opted for a penalty goal, which was scored by FB OGURA, making the score 22-20.

13 minutes into the second half:

The score was close at two points apiece, but gradually the Wild Nights began to push forward on the offensive. After a kicking duel to take possession, Wild Nights FB NOGUCHI jumped on a high ball kicked by his own team and successfully re-captured it, from where Wild Nights connected with the ball and finally WTB KOLOIBETE, running in from behind at full speed, crossed the line from behind to score behind the enemy He ran in behind the in-goal posts to score a try. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 29-20.

17 minutes of the second half:

During this period, both teams kicked each other and tried to put the game in their own favour, but the individual skills of Wild Nights’ FB Noguchi allowed the Wild Nights to attack in rapid succession, always in the opposition’s half. Finally, Wild Nights CTB RILEY broke through the EAGLES’ defense before the goal post and scored a try in the middle on the left of the in-goal area. The conversion goal after the try was also successful and the score, 36-20.

30 minutes into the second half:

Wild Nights were fouled by EAGLES in a scrum set up slightly to the right near the enemy 10m line and opted for a penalty kick in this position. This was scored by Wild Nights’ SO MATSUDA, making the score 39-20.

31 minutes into the second half:

The EAGLES were getting a little tired and in enemy territory when the Wild Nights attacked, the initial response of the defense was delayed and when the ball was passed to WTB KOLOIBETE, who was on the left edge of the Wild Nights attack, no one on the defense was on hand. As it was, KOLOIBETE ran all the way to the enemy in-goal to score his third try of the day. The conversion goal after the try failed and the score was 44-20.

36 minutes of the second half:

In the closing minutes, the Wild Nights are still on the attack. They were closing in on the opposition’s in-goal, and after winning the ball from a lineout on the left, they moved forward in a maul and Wild Nights hooker HORIE, who was controlling the maul from the back row, scored a try in the left corner of the in-goal. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 51-20.

The game ended with the score 51-20, with Wild Nights winning the match and progressing to the play-off final on 20 May, and the Eagles losing the match and moving on to the third-place play-off on 19 May. Will Wild Nights be able to win back-to-back League One titles? And can the EAGLES win their final game of the season?


Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine


RUGBY JERSEY -2022-23 League One Division 1 Final: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Sagamihara Dynaboars vs RICOH Black Rams

(Author: Azul, May 10, 2023)

This time, I went to Sagamihara GION Stadium to watch the final match of League One Division 1.

First of all, let’s check the standings of League One Division 1 at the start of the final round:

2022-23League One Order(Division 1)2023.4.22
1Saitama Wildnights151069269
2Kubota Spears131161281
3Tokyo Sungoliath123055219
4Yokohama Eagles92449241
5Tokyo Brave Lupas106041164
6Toyota Verblitz780339
7Shizuoka Blue Revs5283011
8Black Rams Tokyo51002620
9Kobe Steelers510025-73
10Sagamihara Dynaboars410120-239
11Green Rockets Tokatsu21309-262
12Hanazono Riners11405-540
WP=Winning Point
GD=Goal Difference

As of 22 April, the teams that will advance to the play-offs (i.e. the top four teams) and the teams that will participate in the replacement round (i.e. the bottom three teams) have been confirmed.

The home team this time, Dynaboars, finished 10th out of 12 teams in Division 1 and will play in the replacement round.

Their opponents in the round-robin matches will be the Toyota Shuttles, the third-placed team in Division 2, who will play two matches on a home-and-away basis from 5 May. The teams in the replacement round have a small difference in ability, so it is difficult to predict who will win. Also, both players and fans are very passionate in their support as they never want to lose.

In this sense, the final League One match of the day is also an important one. Especially for Dynaboars, the season is not over yet, so we have to make sure that the players are in peak condition for the replacement game.

Let me now introduce both teams for the match of the day.

First, let me introduce the home team, Sagamihara Dynaboars.

The photo above shows the Dynastars, the cheerleaders of the Dynaboars. On this day, they also cheered us up with their support.

Before the season started, there were pessimistic predictions that the Dynaboars would finish in last place. However, at the start of the League One season, they were the stars of the first half of the season, defeating last season’s top teams, RICOH Black Rams, Toyota Verblitz and TOSHIBA Brave Lupas.

The team’s dramatic run of victories has given hope for the team’s prospects for next season and beyond, and Dynaboars fans will have shown a lot of growth to cheer for. Today’s starting line-up is as follows:

1Shunsuke SAKAMOTO180cm107kg24 
2Yoshimitsu YASUE176cm109kg38Japan 2caps
3Jun MORIMOTO175cm115kg25 
4Epineri ULUIVITI196cm122kg26 
5Walt STEENKAMP203cm121kg27 
6Sam CHONCKIT198cm106kg27 
7Yusuke SAKAMOTO176cm95kg24 
8Jackson HEMOPO194cm112kg29NZ 5caps
9Ryuta NAKAMORI174cm75kg22 
10Matt TOOMUA182cm90kg32Australia 59caps
11Satoshi KOIZUMI178cm86kg22 
12Henry BRACKIN180cm95kg34Japan 7th
13Nozomi NARA179cm94kg26 
14Toh Jr. VAEGA175cm85kg25 
15Kazuki ISHIDA173cm85kg26 

The Dynaboars can be characterised as a generally defensively sound team. In other words, their scoring ability is lower than other Division 1 teams. The Dynaboars rugby this season is all attack and all defence, as there are no outstanding attacking core players.

** Player to watch **

Satoshi KOIZUMI. 178 cm, 86 kg, 22 years old. Waseda University graduate. Born in Sagamihara City, home of the Dynaboars, he started playing rugby at Sagamihara RS. A rookie with a long left-footed kick, he is the team’s most promising player, having earned a starting place towards the end of League One. Fans are hoping that his development will lead to a breakthrough for the Dynaboars.

By the way, let’s introduce the Visitor Team of the day, the RICOH Black Rams.

As the team name Black Rams symbolises, many of the players in the team are from the southern hemisphere, with players from New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and Tonga, making for a powerful attacking force. In contrast to the Dynaboars, the first half of the season saw a string of defeats and a poor run of results, but in the second half of the season, the team’s attacking rugby began to work and they won a number of games in a row. Compared to last season, the team has a stronger squad of players, which has led to this season’s breakthrough.

Today’s starting line-up is as follows.

Black Rams
1Kazuma NISHI180cm112kg27 
2Ko SATO168cm95kg23 
3Taichi CHIBA176cm117kg28 
4Michael Stolberg204cm120kg30 
5Lotoahea Pohiva YAMATO192cm115kg34 
6Amato Fakatava195cm118kg28 
7Brodi McCURRAN192cm105kg28 
8Nathan HUGHES196cm126kg31England 22caps
9Shota YAMAMOTO166cm74kg32 
10Kohei Horigome177cm89kg27 
11Netani Vakayalia180cm88kg24 
12Hadleigh PARKES187cm103kg35Wales 29caps
13Amanaki Taiyo LOTOAHEA189cm100kg25Japan 8caps
14Yuta KURIHARA179cm90kg25 
15Izac Lucas178cm84kg23 

** Players to watch **.

Isaac Lucas. 178 cm, 84 kg, 23 years old. Born in Australia; U20 Australian national team. Position = SO, FB. the face of the Black Rams and a key player in attack. His run play is characteristic and his ability to break through once he gets into opposition territory makes him a threat to the opposing team.

Let’s kick off today’s match.

The attendance on the day was 3,140. This was the last match of the season, which was a digestive match, but it attracted a large crowd. You could feel the high expectations for the local team.

17 minutes into the first half:

Despite not scoring, the Black Rams continued to attack in opposition territory throughout, with Black Rams No 8 Nathan HUGHES making several effective breakthroughs, and the Black Rams opted for a penalty after a foul on the Dynaboars during an attack in opposition territory. The lineout was on the right near the enemy 22m line and was a own ball lineout. Here, the Black Rams won the ball and mauled their way forward and scored a try in the middle right of the enemy in-goal. The score was scored by No. 8 Nathan HUGHES. A conversion goal after the try failed, leaving the score 0-5 to the Black Rams.

24 minutes into the first half:

From the kick-off after the try, the Dynaboars attacked in enemy territory, but were unable to make headway when deployed and were eventually forced back into their own territory by a Black Rams counter attack.

Here, the Black Rams entered enemy territory and, in much the same position as they had been at the time of the first try, they were penalised for an infringement by their opponents. Here, Black Rams SO HORIGOME kicked out to the 22m line on the right side of the opposition line, giving the Black Rams the opportunity to take the ball out of their own half, where they formed a maul and followed the same pattern as before, looking to score a try. However, the Dynaboars broke up the maul midway through, so it had to be rearranged.

From another lineout, the Black Rams successfully formed a maul and raced into the middle of the opposition in-goal on the right, with hooker SATOH scoring the try. The conversion goal after the try failed, leaving the score 0-10.

30 minutes of the first half:

The Dynaboars had been poor on the flanks, struggling to win possession, and when they did get to the BK, they were caught by the opposition defence and were unable to break the gain line.

The Black Ramas again followed the same pattern, scoring their third try of the day from a lineout, forming a maul and rolling into the opposition territory to score a try. The try was scored by No.8 Nathan Hughes. The conversion goal after the try was also successful and the score was 0-17, giving Black Rams a big lead.

38 minutes into the first half:

Black Rams deployed deep in enemy territory and looked to have scored a try in the middle right, but the referee ruled it a no try.

Shortly afterwards, however, the Black Rams attacked through sign play following an infringement by their opponents in front of the opposition goal, and a maul saw them score a try in the middle left. The try was scored by Black Rams FL McCURRAN. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 0-24.

The first half ended with the score unchanged. The Black Rams almost took control of the attack and the Dynaboars did not even look like scoring.

Can the Dynaboars recover from this poor start in the second half?

Let’s get the second half underway.

7 minutes into the second half:

After resetting their bodies at half-time, the Dynaboars players showed some persistence in the densely-packed battle. They entered the enemy territory and began to continue with a series of attacks, and in front of the enemy in-goal, they attacked again and again from the density and finally Dynaboars’ No.8 HEMOPO scored a try right in the middle of the in-goal. A converted goal after the try was also successful, making the score 7-24.

13 minutes into the second half:

In the second half, Dynaboars’ attacking time increased dramatically. This was accompanied by a reduction in the number of penalties committed by the Dynaboars and more opportunities to get close to the opposition’s in-goal. The Dynaboars then took advantage of an infringement by their opponents and, from a lineout in front of the in-goal on the left side of the opposition line, formed a maul and went on to score a try. The try was scored by hooker YASUE. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 14-24.

26 minutes into the second half:

The Dynaboars attack started to gain momentum here. Whereas the Black Rams had scored in the first half through a tight FW game, the Dynaboars’ attack used the ground more widely and attacked with all hands. This opened up holes in the Black Rams’ defence and allowed the Dynaboars players to flourish.

The Dynaboars players continued to attack in a densely contested enemy position in front of goal, culminating in substitute No.8 CURTIS scoring a try to the left side of the goal post. The conversion goal after the try was also successful and the score was 21-24, with the Dynaboars finally within three points.

32 minutes into the second half:

With the Black Rams three points behind, they changed their attacking style and, like the Dynaboars, their BKs began to connect the ball and spread it all over the ground.

Only in the second half did Black Rams get close to the opposition in-goal, with the FWs finally charging forward from sign play and No.8 HUGHES scoring a try in the middle on the right. The conversion goal after the try was also successful and the score, 21-31.

The final score remained the same and the game was over. At the end of the first half, it looked like a convincing win for Black Rams, but the Dynaboars rallied in the second half to make it a match worth watching.

The Black Rams will now finish the season, while the Dynaboars will play two more matches in the replacement round. We look forward to a continuation of the hotly contested matches.


Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine