(Author: Azul, September 17th, 2022)
The 2022-2023 Japanese rugby season began on September 10, 2022. First, the official domestic university rugby season began. From this day, university rugby clubs are divided into groups to play official matches, and the top school among them will be able to participate in the National University Rugby Championship to be held from mid-December.
This time, I watched a match of Kanto University Rugby Group A. It was the opening match of the season. This day was the opening match. The memorable opening card was University of Tsukuba vs Meiji University.
The venue was Komazawa Park Athletic Stadium in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo. From my house, I take the train from Hachioji Station to Shinjuku Station, then to Shibuya Station, and finally to Komazawa University Station. It takes about 2 hours one way. After getting off the train at Komazawa University Station, it takes about 10 minutes to walk to the venue.
After getting off the train, we entered Komazawa Park and walked around the park.
It was mid-September, but it was still hot. The maximum temperature rose to 31 degrees Celsius. If we were not careful, we were likely to suffer heat stroke.
We finally arrived at the Komazawa Park Athletic Field.
Before the game, I would like to check the ranking of Group A of the Kanto University Rugby Tournament last season.
|Kanto University Rugby Rivalry Group A Order 2021|
|5||Nippon Sport Science||3||4|
From this group, the top five schools will advance to the University Championship.
Last season, Tsukuba University finished in 6th place and failed to qualify for the University Championship due to a late game setback.
Now, let me introduce both teams before the match.
First, let us talk about the University of Tsukuba Rugby Club.
Tsukuba University is the strongest team among Japan’s national universities, both in name and reality, and was the runner-up in the 2012 National University Championship. The team is characterized by strong FW scrums and fast development of BK players. The University of Tsukuba is located in Ibaraki Prefecture, and teams from this area, both high school and university, are known for their skillful handling. When watching the matches, one is impressed by their creative play.
Today’s starting lineup is as follows：
|7||Kodai Sean YOKOMIZO||187cm||88kg||20|
＊＊ Playerｓ to watch ＊＊
Hayata TANIYAMA. 184 cm, 95 kg, 20 years old. Position = FL, No. 8, CTB. 2019 high school representative for Japan. He participated in the 2019 Japan High School Team tour to Wales. He has been playing as a No.8 this season, and his ability to break through is outstanding, and his movements stand out in the game. He is a player with great promise for the future.
Next, I would like to talk about the Meiji University Rugby Club.
The team is one of the top university teams in Japan in terms of tradition, popularity, and ability. Traditionally, the team’s colors are based on a strong front line, but this season, the team will also refine its BK development ability, led by captain ISHIDA, a WTB who represented the 7-man Olympic team.
Today’s starting members are as follows：
＊＊ Playerｓ to watach ＊＊
Kotaro ITO. 175 cm, 84 kg, 20 years old. He has been a regular player as the control tower of Meiji University’s BK since last season. He is a very talented player, not only in passing and kicking as a SO, but also in breaking through with the ball in his own hands. Teikyo’s TAKAMOTO, Tokai’s MUTO and Steelers’ LI, there are strong rivals in the same generation. Can he lead Meiji University to the top this season?
Let’s take a look at today’s matches.
University of Tsukuba is a regular team in the University Championship, but last season, they finished 6th in the rivalry group and failed to qualify for the championship for the first time in four seasons. Therefore, the University of Tsukuba will have to play against top-ranked teams continuously from the beginning of the season, and will have to be in top condition from the beginning of the season. This team condition was reflected in the morale of the players, and the match turned out to be a heated affair with much to see and do.
The game started at 12:30.
5 minutes into the first half:
Meiji kicked off to start the match. In the early stages of the match, Tsukuba and Meiji were evenly matched in a densely contested match. Both teams were falling off the ball due to handling errors, and both sides were turning the ball over and switching offensively and defensively at a dizzying pace. However, these attacks and defenses took place in Tsukuba’s territory, and Meiji was pushing. Meiji moved forward in the form of a series of dense battles with different points. Meiji formed a dense battle in front of the in-goal at the left end of Tsukuba’s camp, and SO Itoh, who was positioned near the line, ran to the opposite side, received the ball, and jumped into the left end of the in-goal to score a try. The conversion goal after the try was successful. The score was 7-0, and Meiji scored first.
9 minutes into the first half:
From the kick-off after the try, Tsukuba attacked into the Meiji camp and gradually advanced. In addition, the University of Tsukuba team’s characteristic skillful passing and imaginative running captivated the crowd.
After Meiji was fouled for offsides, Tsukuba was able to kick for touch. From there, they won the ball from their own lineout, and closed in on the Meiji side’s in-goal. Tsukuba’s maul led to a ruck, and the FWs connected with a side-attack, and finally, prop KIHARA scored a try in the middle of the left field. The score was tied 7-7 after the conversion goal.
24 minutes into the first half:
Tsukuba kicked the ball from their own territory deep into the Meiji camp, and Tsukuba’s WTB OHATA made a spirited pursuit to bring the teams into a tight battle. Meiji committed a foul here, and Tsukuba opted for the PG. It was a relatively easy PG, about 20m in front of the field, but the kicker, FB Takada missed.
34 minutes into the first half:
Both teams repeatedly mixed their attacks with kicks, and the game often switched between offense and defense. Tsukuba showed tenacious defense, and even after being overtaken by their opponents, they chased after them from behind and flicked the ball away on several occasions. Tsukuba formed a ruck near the center of the Meiji camp, where Meiji committed a foul by falling down. Tsukuba chose to go for the PG, and from about 30 meters away in front of the goal, FB Takada kicked it. However, the PG was also unsuccessful.
36 minutes into the first half:
After a kicking duel between the two teams, a lineout was created in Meiji’s possession, but Tsukuba fought back and succeeded in taking the ball. Tsukuba kicked the ball and while Meiji’s FB YASUDA was slow in handling the ball kicked by Tsukuba, Tsukuba’s defense caught up with him and brought them into a densely contested battle. Meiji was fouled, and Tsukuba opted for a penalty kick, which they kicked to the goal line in front of the enemy’s goal to gain their own lineout. Tsukuba won the ball, and a maul led to a ruck, but they were able to get close to the enemy’s in-goal, and finally, CTB ASAMI showed great body control, dodging 4 or 5 men in a tight pack and scoring a try in the middle of the field on the right. After the try, the conversion goal failed. The score was 12-7, and Tsukuba finally overturned Meiji.
39 minutes into the first half:
The first half ended on a sour note for Meiji, but from this point on, Meiji’s BKs used the ground widely on both sides of the field to launch a development attack.
The ball was kicked back by Tsukuba deep into the Meiji camp, and Meiji’s WTB Akihama caught the ball at the left end. From the tight pack that formed at this point, Meiji deployed the ball far to the left, and flanker MORIYAMA took over on the left edge.
From the crowd here, Meiji moved to the right and CTB SAITO received the ball and cut in and scored a try at the right side of the goal post.
The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 12-14, and Meiji was back in front by the end of the game.
46 minutes in the first half:
The first half did not end well as there seemed to be a lot of lost time. In such a situation, Meiji got a scrum in front of the goal post in the enemy’s territory. Tsukuba pushed back the scrum, but Meiji’s SO ITOH easily got out of the scrum and scored a try in the left center of Tsukuba’s in-goal. It was the second try of the day for ITOH. The conversion goal after the try failed. The score was 12-19, and Meiji led by 7 points at the end of the first half.
At this point, it was half time. Against Tsukuba’s high morale, Meiji made many small mistakes, which led to a number of goals. Tsukuba also missed two relatively easy PGs, which was regrettable.
This was a good game, befitting of the opening match of the Kanto University Rugby season. Expectations are high for the second half.
11 minutes into the second half:
Tsukuba attacked into the enemy territory and made steady progress, coming very close to the Meiji side goal posts. From a tight battle, the FWs repeatedly attacked on the flanks and came close to scoring in-goal, but Meiji was able to repel the attack. From there, the ball was turned to the right and Tsukuba’s CTB ASAMI received it and scored a try in the middle of the enemy in-goal on the right side. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, and the score was tied 19-19.
17 minutes into the second half:
Tsukuba kept the ball and continued to attack in succession, gradually making progress. Tsukuba kicked the ball deep into their own territory, but Meiji caught the ball deep in their own territory. From there, Meiji’s SO ITOH dodged the opposing defense and made a huge gain on the right side. Finally, FB YASUDA caught the ball, ran through and scored a try in the right corner of the enemy’s in-goal. Meiji also scored the conversion goal after the try, making the score 26-19.
The decisive work here was done by Meiji’s SO Itoh, who was excellent at finding holes in the opposition’s defense, but also had a remarkable ability to dash past the defense and get to top speed.
20 minutes into the second half:
Immediately after Meiji’s try, Tsukuba attacked into the opponent’s territory and had a PG opportunity about 15 meters to the left of the goal post in the opponent’s territory. FB Takada made the important PG to make the score 26-22. Tsukuba needed only one more try to pull away from the deficit.
31 minutes into the second half:
After Meiji attacked deep into their own territory, Tsukuba got their own ball from a scrum. Tsukuba’s inside CTB MATSUSHIMA advanced with skillful running. The team became dense at this point, and outside CTB ASAMI kicked the ball out of the dense pack for a long kick. The kick by ASAMI was kicked from his own line, so he was able to take advantage of the new 50-22 rule and get his own ball out beyond the enemy 22m line, a super move by CTB ASAMI.
From this point, Tsukuba made a series of attacks deep in the enemy territory. Several times, they came close to the goal line, but they just could not break through Meiji’s last defensive net.
36 minutes into the second half:
Both teams exchanged kicks, and this time, Meiji took the right to attack when they went deep into Tsukuba’s territory.
Meiji secured the ball from the lineout, and quickly moved it to the right side. Once Tsukuba’s defense got involved, they formed a dense formation, and here, Meiji’s SH HAGIWARA broke out of the side of the dense group, and WTB ISHIDA followed him. Finally WTB ISHIDA received the pass from the SH Hagiwara and scored a try just below the goal post. The try by ISHIDA, the captain of the Meiji team, raised the morale of the team to a new high. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 33-22.
In the end, the score remained the same, and the game came to an end, giving Meiji University their first win of the season. However, it was a also a great game as Tsukuba University showed their persistence to win until the very end of the match. We look forward to seeing Tsukuba University continue to build up their game against the higher ranked teams in the early rounds of the Kanto University rivalry group.
Stop the war.
Peace to Ukraine