RUGBY JERSEY -2022-23 League One Opening match:

Tokyo Sungoliath vs Kubota Spears

(Author: Azul, December 27, 2022)

On December 17, 2022, the 2022-2023 season of Japan Rugby League One began.

To kick off the season, let’s take a look back at the standings of the teams from last season: The League One standings for the 2021-22 season are shown in the table below.

2021-22League One Order
1Tokyo Sungoliath142066
2Saitama Wildnights142061
3Kubota Spears124058
4Tokyo Brave Lupas115053
5Toyota Verblitz106046
6Yokohama Eagles106045
7Kobe Steelers79036
8Shizuoka Blue Revs511027
9Black Rams Tokyo412021
10Shining Arks Tokyo Bay412018
11Red Hurricanes Osaka313014
12Green Rockets Tokatsu214014
WP=Winning Point

After the league season ended, the top four teams played off.

  • Play-Off Tournament

** Semi-Final

1)Tokyo Sungoliath vs Tokyo Brave Lupas: 30-24

(Winner: Tokyo Sungoliath)

2)Saitama Wildnights vs Kubota Spears: 24-10

(Winner: Saitama Wildnights)

** Final

Saitama Wildnights vs Tokyo Sungoliath: 12-18

(Winner: Saitama Wildnights)

As a result, the winner of League One for the 2021-2022 season was the Saitama Wildnights, who were undefeated in actual competition, with two losses in league play due to the new corona outbreak. The focus of League One will be on which team will beat the Wildnights.

The lower teams in Division One of League One then played the top teams in Division Two in a substitution match, with the following results.

Promotion or Relegation Deciding Match
1StGreen Rockets TokatsuvsMie HONDA Heat30-10
2ndMie HONDA HeatvsGreen Rockets Tokatsu24-22
Winner:Green Rockets Tokatsu
1StShining Arks Tokyo BayvsSagamihara Dynaboars25-33
2ndSagamihara DynaboarsvsShining Arks Tokyo Bay33-19
Winner:Sagamihara Dynaboars

Note: The Kintetsu Liners, who finished first in Division 2, were automatically promoted to the next round. And as a result of the round-robin matches, the following teams were selected

Green Rockets Tokatsu, ranked 12th in D1, remained in D1, and Honda Heat, ranked 2nd in D2, was not promoted and remained in D2.

Sagamihara Dynaboars, ranked 3rd in D2, was promoted to D1, and NTT Shining Arcs, ranked 10th in D1, was relegated to D2.

The NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes, who finished 11th in D1, were relegated to D3 after their team was temporarily disbanded at the end of the season.

I then went to watch one of the first-round games of League One, Suntory Sungoliath (2nd place last season) vs. Kubota Spears, at Tokyo Stadium (aka Ajinomoto Stadium) in Chofu, Tokyo, on December 18.

Ajinomoto Stadium is the stadium where the opening match of RWC 2019 took place, so coming here reminds me of the frenzy I was in back then.

The following year, RWC 2023 will be held in France, so I believe that rugby will gradually become more popular in Japan. The number of paying visitors on that day was 10,842.

I would like to introduce both teams that will play today.

First, we would like to start with Visitor Tean, KUBOTA Spears.

They finished 3rd in League One last season, and this season, they are capable of winning the championship.

Spears’ slogan for this season is “Split Second. This slogan means to give one’s all in each and every moment.

Their 1st jersey is orange color, and the Spears supporters are called the Orange Army.

Today’s starting lineup is as follows.

1Kota KAISHI172cm102kg28Japan 1cap
2Malkolm Marx189cm117kg28South Africa 57cap
3Shoya MATSUNAMI186cm110kg30 
4Ruan Botha205cm120kg30 
5David BULBRING199cm113kg33 
6Peter Labuschagne189cm106kg33Japan 14cap
7Takeo SUENAGA178cm98kg28 
8Faulua Maikisi187cm112kg25Japan 5cap
9Shinobu FUJIWARA171cm76kg23 
10Bernard Foley182cm89kg33Australia 75cap
11Haruto KIDA176cm90kg23 
12Harumichi Tatekawa180cm93kg32Japan 55cap
13Sione Teaupa183cm97kg30Japan 3cap
14Koga Nezuka173cm82kg24Japan 1cap
15Gerhard Van Den Heever192cm102kg33Japan 5cap

As you can see from the table above, Spears has a strong FW, the No.1 team in League One in terms of average height and weight of FW. This season, the Spears are particularly focusing on strengthening their defense, aiming to play rugby with fewer goals scored.

** Player to watch **

Bernard FOLEY. 182 cm, 89 kg, 33 years old. Australia national team cap 79. position = SO. selected for RWC 2015 and 2019. In his third season with the Spears, I expect him to combine well with his teammates to create a spectator-pleasing game.

Now, let us introduce Suntory Sungoliath, the home team of this game.

Last year, they finished second in League One. The meaning of the team name includes Sun=Sun and Goliath=Giant. The team’s slogan for this season is “SunGoliath Pride -All for Victory,” and they are aiming for their first championship in five seasons. The team’s style of play is explosive attack and thick defense. Last season, the team’s 577 total points was by far the highest of all the teams.

Today’s starting lineup is as follows

1Yukio MORIKAWA180cm112kg29Japan 2cap
2Shunta NAKAMURA176cm105kg28Japan 
4Tom SAVAGE197cm118kg33 
5Harry HOCKINGS206cm118kg24 
6Koji IINO190cm110kg28Japan 1cap
7Kai YAMAMOTO177cm98kg22 
8Tevita TATAFU183m124kg26Japan 14cap
9Naoto SAITO165cm73kg25Japan 10cap
10Hikaru Tamura175cm80kg29 
11Tevita Li182cm95kg27 
12Keisuke MORIYA185cm93kg28 
13Shogo NAKANO186cm98kg25Japan 5cap
14Shota EMI183cm95kg26 
15Kotaro MATSUSHIMA178cm88kg29Japan 46cap

** Player to watch **

Shogo NAKANO. 186 cm, 98 kg, 25 years old. Position = CTB. Japan national team 5cap. Graduated from Waseda University. He has international standard physique and speed, and is a promising star of Japan’s national BK team. He is a member of Sungoliath, a team that has a strong group of players, so he has had few opportunities to play at CTB, but this season, he will be responsible for Sungoliath’s progress as an unshakable CTB.

Let’s follow the match of the day.

7 minutes into the first half:

Sungoliath boasted the best attack in League One last season, and in the early stages of the match, Spears showed a defensive prowess that was no match for their attack. Spears showed a strategy of going for the PG once they got into the opposition’s territory and gained an infringement. In the 7th minute of the first half, Spears’ SO Foley scored the first PG from a position slightly to the right of the 10-meter line.

FOLEY followed this up with another PG in the 11th minute of the first half to make the score 0-6 in favor of Spears.

21 minutes into the first half:

The Spears’ orange wall stood in the way of Sungoliath’s best attackers in League One. Until this time, Sungoliath could not score, or rather, could not even cross the gain line due to Spears’ strong defensive network. This was a bit of a surprise.

Spears went deep into the enemy territory, and after a long pass from FB Van den Heever to WTB NEZUKA at the right end, NEZUKA scored a try in the right corner of the in-goal. The try was scored in the right corner of the in-goal. The conversion attempt failed and the score was 11-0, giving Spears a big lead.

25 minutes into the first half:

Sungoliath, perhaps thinking it would be difficult to get a try past the Spears’ defensive net, infringed on their opponents as they entered enemy territory and opted to go for the PG without hesitation. Sungoliath’s SO Tamura scored to make the score 3-11.

31 minutes into the first half:

Sungoliath, hoping to close the gap somehow, deployed from deep in their own territory, and WTB EMI tried to break through. However, as he got past a man, he was held by Spears prop KAISI and was penalized for not releasing the ball. The Spears elected to go for the PG, which the SO FOLEY converted to make the score 3-14.

35 minutes into the first half:

In the same position as in the first 25 minutes, Sungoliath got a PG and the SO TAMURA scored to make the score 6-14. However, Sungoliath fans expect a raging attack in every game, so this was a stressful game for them.

Spears has outscored Sungoliath in set pieces this season. In the scrums, Spears steadily pushed Sungoliath and put pressure on Sungoliath in the lineouts.

With the first half ending with this score, can Sungoliath regain momentum in the second half?

Let’s get the second half underway.

2 minutes into the second half

Spears started the second half by going deep into the opponent’s territory, pushing and winning at almost every point of contact against Sungoliath, and after a series of attacks, the ball was passed to Spears’ WTB KIDA on the left flank, who played off a Sungoliath defender and scored a try in the left corner of the opponent’s in-goal. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 6-21.

9 minutes into the second half:

Sungoliath’s attack started to show their typical style. They entered the enemy territory and attacked in succession, with FB MATSUSHIMA making a big gain at the left site, and from there a dense battle ensued. No.8 TATAFU of Sungoliath accelerated quickly, overtook the pursuing No.8 MAKISI of Spears, and scored a try right under the goal post of the opponent’s in-goal. The stadium was abuzz with excitement as Japan’s national team players showed great effort at every turn. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 13-21.

The instantaneous acceleration of Sungoliath’s No.8 TATAFU was amazing. He is indeed the No.8 of the Japanese national team.

19 minutes into the first half:

Sungoliath tried to activate their attackers by breaking through their own line as well. But once again, Spears’ orange wall cut off Sungoliath’s attackers. Here, Spears had their own ball scrum deep in enemy territory, where they applied heavy pressure and drew a collapsing foul from Sungoliath. The SO FOLEY made the score 13-24 with a PG from the scrum.

24 minutes into the second half:

The teams kicked to each other, and when Sungoliath’s SO TAMURA had trouble handling the kick, he was caught by the Spears’ FW, and from the crowd that formed here, the Spears took the ball to the left. Spears’ SO FOLEY received the ball and, seeing a breakdown in the opponents’ formation, kicked to the left side of the opponents’ in-goal. This turned out to be an excellent kick pass to Spears’ left WTB KIDA, and KIDA scored a try in the left corner of the opponents’ in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 13-31 in favor of Spears. The WTB KIDA scored his second try of the day.

36 minutes into the second half:

Sungoliath, outnumbered on the scoreboard, made several attempts to break through the Spears defense, but each time their attacks were cut short by a bounce off the Spears flanks. Nevertheless, Sungoliath continued to push forward in the enemy territory, and came close to the opponent’s in-goal. On the right side in front of the enemy’s in-goal, Sungoliath got a scrum on their own ball, and at the moment the ball was released, FB OZAKI, who came in as a midway replacement, scored a try right in the middle of the enemy’s in-goal. The conversion goal after the try failed. The score was 18-31.

KUBOTA SPEARS won the opening game of the season with a final score of 18-31, marking the first time in 18 years that KUBOTA has defeated SUNTORY. SPEARS, however, won today’s match, and the team’s improvement from last season has paid off, as they are now serious contenders to win the championship this season.

On the other hand, Sungoliath’s offensive power from last season hardly worked against SPEARS this season. It is thought that Sungoliath is greatly outclassed in physical ability. Will they be able to get revenge in the next rematch (April 22)?

** Jersey Collection 69 **

This Sungoliath baseball shirt was distributed to the first 12,300 people in attendance at the SUNTORY Sungoliath’s opening game on December 18.

This shirt is a new experiment in that it also has the sponsor’s name on the back. I was able to get a free seat for 2,000 yen on this day, so I felt like I was getting a little something out of it. I also attended Sungoliath’s opening game last season, but there was no such service at that time, and I hope that the League ONE teams will expand such fan services to increase the number of rugby fans. I hope that the League ONE teams will expand these fan services to increase the number of rugby fans, and I believe that this will lead to the strengthening of the Japanese national rugby team.


Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine


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