(written by Azul, January 8th, 2022)
Happy New Year!
As the first rugby game of the year 2022, I went to see the semifinal game of the National University Rugby Championship at the New National Stadium in Tokyo on January 2nd. Today’s game started at 12:25. This is the second time I have been to the New National Stadium. I haven’t had much of a chance to visit this stadium since the Tokyo Olympics was a no-show game.
A brief overview of the new national stadium:.
The National Stadium was built as the main stadium for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and was renovated after the 2020 Olympics were decided. The capacity is 60,000 people. The stadium has been renovated and the spectator seats are covered by a roof, so spectators can watch the games without rain gear, even in the rain, as long as it is not accompanied by wind. The nearest stations are Sendagaya Station and Shinanomachi Station on the JR Line and New National Stadium Station on the subway Oedo Line.
The capacity of the new national stadium is about three times that of the Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, so when I got off at Sendagaya Station, a huge number of spectators streamed out of the ticket gates. From here to the stadium, it took about 7-8 minutes of slow walking to reach the entrance gate.
Here are the semi-final matchups for the day.
Game 1: Tokai University (Kanto University Rugby League Group 1st place) vs Meiji University (Kanto University Rugby Rivalry Group 3rd place)
Second match: Teikyo University (Kanto University Rugby Rivalry Group 1st place) vs Kyoto Sangyo University (Kansai University Rugby A Group 1st place)
In the semifinals of this year’s University Rugby Championship, the champions of the Kanto and Kansai leagues have won in order. In sports tournaments, it is said that the most heated games are played in the semifinals, and I hope to see heated games again this year.
Let’s start with the first game.
Here is a brief introduction of each team in the first match.
＊＊ Tokai University Rugby Club ＊＊
The Tokai University Rugby Team is ranked the first in the Kanto University Rugby League Group, and except for a draw against Nihon University, which is ranked second, they have come through without any problems. In the first game of the University Championship, they won in order against Keio University 27-12. They have a strong and stable FW team, and also have a BK team with the ability to develop, led by SO Muto. The school is a regular participant in the top ranks of recent university championships, but it has never won a championship.
＊＊ Meiji University Rugby Club ＊＊
Third place in the Kanto University Rugby rivalry group. In this season’s rivalry, they lost to Teikyo University and Waseda University consecutively at the end of the season, but as they entered the University Championship, they defeated last year’s student champion Tenri University and Waseda University, the second place team in the rivalry group, both in close games, and have gradually improved their team strength. In terms of popularity of domestic rugby, they are the twin peaks along with Waseda University.
Now, let’s kick off the first game. Tokai University took the lead. In the 11th minute of the first half, CTB Maruyama of Tokai University scored a PG in enemy territory to make the score 3-0, and Tokai University led by 3 points.
12 minutes into the first half. From a lineout in the enemy’s territory, Meiji University expanded to the right, and in the first attack, WTB Ishida easily got through and scored a try right under the goal post. The conversion goal was also successful, and the score was 3-7 in favor of Meiji University.
In the first half, Meiji University took control of the game, and in the 25th minute, WTB Ishida scored his second try of the day, and the conversion goal was also successful. In the 35th minute of the first half, Meiji University’s WTB Ishida again made a big gain to close in on the goal line, and No.8 Oishi scored a try. The conversion goal was successful. The first half ended with Meiji University taking a big lead, 21-3.
What happened to Tokai University? Are they still the champions of the Kanto University League? Looking at the games they’ve played so far against Meiji, it seems like they’re a much lower ranked opponent.
I don’t think my heart was in the right place, but Tokai University rallied in the second half.
In the first minute of the second half, Tokai University kicked off and went into enemy territory. CTB Itoh easily scored a try. The conversion goal was also successful, and Tokai University closed the gap to 15 points, 10-25.
Just three minutes later, in the fourth minute of the second half, Tokai University caught the ball kicked by Meiji University and passed it to SO Mutoh, who then launched a counter attack. Muto made a big gain and went deep into the enemy territory, but Meiji University’s defenders stopped Tokai University’s advance, but Tokai University developed to the left, and CTB Maruyama kicked a pass. Tokai University’s WTB Taniguchi caught the pass and scored a try in the left corner. After this try, CTB Maruyama scored a conversion goal from a difficult angle. The score was now 17-21, and Tokai University had closed the gap to 4 points.
Tokai University was finally showing its true potential. The game was now heating up.
Then, 9 minutes into the second half. Meiji University’s WTB Ishida, the main player who took a big lead in the first half, was injured and had to leave the field. This is not good for Meiji University.
In the 14th minute of the second half, it was a bit of a stalemate in front of Meiji University’s goal, but Tokai University’s SO Muto took advantage of an overlap in Meiji University’s defensive network and scored a great try. The conversion goal was also successful, making the score 24-21, and Tokai University finally turned the game around.
Then, 21 minutes into the second half. In the 21st minute of the second half, Meiji University scored a PG in enemy territory and CTB Hirose scored to tie the score. The score was now 24-24.
After 20 minutes of the second half, both teams finally started to show their true potential. This was a game worthy of the semi-finals. Both teams attacked each other consecutively, but their strength was so close to each other that they repeatedly took turns moving forward and entered a physically demanding stalemate.
In the 26th minute of the second half, Meiji University won the ball in a lineout and deployed it to the right, where SO Ito of Meiji University tried to break through. However, once the Tokai University defensive net loosened up, he rushed forward and scored a try in the middle right corner. The conversion goal was also successful, and the score became 24-31, and Meiji University took a 7-point lead again. In such a tightly contested game, a new hero emerges. Meiji’s Ito, who had been invisible in the past as he played the role of a link, did a great job at the critical moment. The morale of the entire Meiji University team was lifted.
In the 32nd minute of the second half, flanker Fukuda made a big gain on the left side from the center of the field. Then, expanding to the right, FB Kumoyama of Meiji University rolled an exquisite kick into the opponent’s in-goal. At the last moment, Meiji University CTB Saito held the kick in the in-goal, and the try was scored. The conversion goal was also successful. The score was 24-38, and Meiji University finally took a 14-point lead. Later in the game, Meiji University scored a PG after a foul by Tokai University, and CTB Hirose scored a try. The game was over. The final score was 24-39 in favor of Meiji University.
Meiji University has decided to advance to the finals of the University Championship. It was a good game, with both teams showing their strengths, as befitting a semifinal game.
After a 40-minute break, we went to watch the second game of the day.
Game 2: Teikyo University (Kanto University Rugby Group 1) vs Kyoto Sangyo University (Kansai University Rugby Group A)
The following is the progress of the match between the two schools so far.
＊＊ Teikyo University ＊＊
Teikyo University won the Kanto University Rivalry Group matches undefeated, and advanced to this semi-final with an overwhelming victory (76-24) over Doshisha University, ranked 4th in the Kansai League, in the quarterfinals of the University Championship. This season, Teikyo University has been flying from the first half of the game, and there has never been a game where the other team has taken the lead. The team’s colors are strong in both FW and BK, and there seems to be no weaknesses in the team. According to the pre-match predictions, there were many reports that Teikyo University would win in order. What kind of game will Teikyo University play this time against the champions of the Kansai League? Since the first game was a tumultuous affair, expectations are high for a heated battle.
＊＊ Kyoto Sangyo University ＊＊
The champion of the Kansai University Rugby League this season. Like Teikyo University, it is undefeated until the semifinals of the University Championship. However, while Teikyo has won many games by overwhelming margins, Kyoto Sangyo University has won many games by narrow margins. In terms of team tactics, all players in both FW and BK will continue to play through contact without hesitation in order to advance. The source of scoring is the PG of FB Takeshita.
The second match was about to begin. Teikyo University made the same start as usual, attacking from the beginning. In the 5th minute of the first half, Teikyo University attacked into the opponent’s territory and developed to the right, and finally FB Yanaka scored a try. The conversion goal failed, and Teikyo University scored first, 5-0.
In the 12th minute of the first half, Kyoto Sangyo University scored a PG goal from inside the opponent’s territory, and FB Takenaka scored steadily. The score was 5-3, and Teikyo University led by two points.
Next, in the 20th minute of the first half. FB Taninaka drew the opponents back, and WTB Shirakuni made a brilliant switch play to score a try in the middle left. The conversion failed. The score is 10-3, and Teikyo University leads by 7 points.
23 minutes left in the first half. Kyoto Sangyo University had another PG opportunity in the opponent’s territory, and FB Takeshita scored. The score was now 10-6, and Kyoto Sangyo University was trailing by 4 points.
Up to this point, as predicted before the game, Teikyo University was ahead in the early stages of the game, and Kyoto Sangyo University was catching up by accumulating PG scores. However, from this point on, the potential of the Kyoto Sangyo University players began to awaken due to the attacks of Teikyo University, the leading candidate for the championship. In the previous games, Teikyo University players rarely lost a match. However, the Kyoto Sangyo University players, famous for their intense training, gradually outperformed the Teikyo University players in individual contact play.
29th minute of the first half. From a scrum in front of the goal, CTB Vakalahi tried to break through the center of the field and was stopped by a tackle, but he broke through again and scored a try by the goal post. The conversion goal was also successful, and the score was 10-13, giving Kyoto Sangyo University a three-point lead.
At this point, Kyoto Sangyo University started to overwhelm Teikyo University in the game development, with 70% of the ball control. Teikyo University had never played against a team that was so strong in individual contact play. I don’t know why the Kyoto Sangyo University players awakened, but perhaps this is the magic of the semifinals.
In the 38th minute of the first half, FB Takeshita scored his third PG of the day for Kyoto Sangyo University, making the score 10-16. In the closing minutes, Kyoto Sangyo University made a lineout deep in enemy territory and advanced by mauling. In the end, prop Hirano scored a try in front of the goal. The conversion goal was also successful, and the score was 10-23, giving Kyoto Sangyo University a 13-point lead at the end of the first half. From the middle of the first half, the momentum of the game was in Kyoto Sangyo University’s hands.
The way they scored the last try of the first half, it was as if Teikyo University had become a lower-ranked team. Teikyo University was in a tight spot. Do they still have the power to turn the game around like they did against Meiji University in the first game?
However, just like Tokai University’s comeback from the second half in the first game, we have seen several times in tournament games where a team that was inferior to the other team comes back to life in the second half.
Then, the second half started.
Teikyo University was the first to score. Five minutes into the second half, Teikyo University won the right to take a penalty kick in enemy territory, and SO Takamoto scored to make it three points in favor of Teikyo University. The score was 13-23 in favor of Teikyo University, and they were up by 10 points.
In the 9th minute of the second half, Teikyo University won the ball in a lineout in front of the enemy’s goal, and launched a maul attack, their specialty. Kyoto Sangyo University’s FW put up a strong fight against this attack. Teikyo University’s mauling move was stopped by Kyoto Sangyo University’s FW, but they gradually made progress. As Teikyo University approached the goal line, hooker Era broke free and scored a try in the left corner. The conversion goal after the try was a difficult one from the left corner, but SO Takamoto successfully converted it. The score was now 20-23, and Teikyo University had closed the gap to three points over Kyoto Sangyo University.
With this, I thought the game would gradually move at Teikyo University’s pace. However, Kyoto Sangyo University was strong. Their fighting spirit never waned. From here, they started to regain their footing. Once in enemy territory, they continued to dominate the ball in dense battles. Kyoto Sangyo University also gradually pushed Teikyo University in a maul. In the 16th minute of the second half, Kyoto Sangyo University’s WTB Funabiki received the ball near the center of the enemy area, and despite being surrounded by six Teikyo defenders, he broke through to the center of the field and advanced 2 meters to the goal post. Kyoto Sangyo University WTB Funabiki ran hard and the stadium erupted in cheers. Finally, he connected with prop Hirano to score a try in the middle of the field. The conversion goal was also successful, and the score was 20-30, giving Kyoto Sangyo University a 10-point lead over Teikyo University again.
Kyoto Sangyo University’s unflagging determination to win this game gave me goose bumps. Will Kyoto Sangyo University be able to win this game?
Then, 20 minutes into the second half. Teikyo University introduced Hosoki, who is said to be the No.1 student prop, as an impact player. His appearance made us feel that rugby is a sport of fighting spirit. The expressions on the faces of the Teikyo University FW players changed with Hosoki’s appearance. Hosoki has a great deal of trust from his teammates.
From this point on, Teikyo foolishly chose to use scrums in their set plays. The scrums, which had been evenly matched until then, began to show a clear advantage with the addition of Hosoki.
Then, in the 64th minute of the second half. Teikyo moved forward at once with a scrum, and Teikyo’s SH Lee picked up the spilled ball and scored a try in the middle left corner. The conversion goal was also successful, making the score 27-30. Teikyo University was again up by three points.
With the arrival of Hosoki, Teikyo University’s fighting spirit was infectious, and the entire team was filled with energy.
In the 31st minute of the second half, Teikyo University once again gained the upper hand in the scrum and earned the right to play PG in front of the enemy goal. SO Takamoto scored steadily, and the score was finally tied at 30-30.
Even if the game ended in a draw, the team with the most tries would win, according to the tournament rules, so Teikyo University had a mental advantage.
With Teikyo dominating in the scrum, they pushed the game forward in the opponent’s territory. The balance of power between the two sides was broken in the 38th minute of the second half. Teikyo University made a series of attacks in front of the goal and developed to the right, and finally WTB Tuinakauvadra scored a try in the right corner. The conversion goal was also successful, and the score became 37-30, and Teikyo University finally turned the game around just before the end. Teikyo University finally made a comeback just before the end of the game, and the game ended. Teikyo University will advance to the final game on January 9.
Both teams played a great game with a lot of spirit. It was a good game that showed the full potential of both teams. I believe that Teikyo University was able to perform so well because of this game against Kyoto Sangyo University.
The pairing for the University Championship final on January 9 is Teikyo University versus Meiji University. This was a showdown between two teams belonging to the Kanto University rivalry group. Will Teikyo University regain its position as the university champion for the first time in four years? Or will Meiji University get their revenge for three consecutive games? I’m getting excited now.
＊＊ Jerseys Collection 51 ＊＊
This is a replica jersey of the 2012-13 French national rugby team uniform, made by Adidas. I think it’s relatively easy to get this jersey since it’s pretty common. I wear it mostly when I play futsal.