RUGBY JERSEY – 9th National Women’s Rugby Football Championship Final

Tokyo Thank you Phoenix vs Nihon Taiiku University

(Author: Azul, February 19, 2023)

This week on Febrauary 5, 2023, I went to the Odawara City Shiroyama Athletics Stadium in Odawara City, Kanagawa Prefecture, to watch the Women’s Rugby Japan Championship Final. Odawara City is a famous tourist destination and has an image of being far away, but from my home (Hachioji City), it takes about the same amount of time to get there as it does to get to Chichibunomiya Rugby Ground. The distance is about 65 km, and the journey takes 90 minutes by train.

The day was blessed with fine weather, making it a perfect day for sightseeing and watching the match. Since I had come all the way to Odawara, I visited Odawara Castle, the main sightseeing spot here.

Odawara Castle is about a 10-minute walk from Odawara Station, and you can reach the entrance.

As you exit Odawara Station, Odawara Castle can be seen on the right. From here, follow the signs and you will see the moat of the castle.

You can then enter the entrance and enter the castle. It has been about 10 years since I visited Odawara Castle. Compared to when I was here before, it was much cleaner and better maintained.

During the Warring States period, the castle was said to be impregnable, and indeed there are a number of gates from the outer moat to the keep.

During the Warring States period, enemy troops had to break through these thick gates, which was quite hard work. I was sweating just walking onwards.

The castle is quite large, so a guide map is provided along the way. Odawara Castle in its present form was built in 1633 by the Hojo clan, who were warring feudal lords. It was once demolished in the early Meiji period (late 18th century), but the castle’s main citadel and other parts were later restored.

The photo above shows the second circle of Odawara Castle and Sumiyoshi Bridge. As the situation with the new corona infection is now on the wane, people have returned to the tourist attractions in Japan.

The photo above shows the copper gate of Odawara Castle. It is still a long way to the castle tower. Well, it’s a long way, and if it were summer, you’d be drenched in sweat.

In Ninomaru, there was also this sightseeing facility. This is the Ninja Museum. Historical materials about the Fuuma Ninja Army, a group of ninja who served the Hojo clan, were on display. I didn’t have enough time to see inside the museum, but next time I come to Odawara, I would like to visit.

And finally, the castle tower. From the entrance to here, it took 30 minutes. Now it’s time to head to the match venue.

The kick-off time for the match on 5 February was 13:00.

The match venue, Shiroyama Athletics Stadium, is located on the other side of Odawara Station. And when you get to the other side of the station.

Oops, there was a bronze statue of Soun Hojo, a famous war lord, here. To the citizens of Odawara, Soun Hojo is a hero. With this statue by my side, I headed towards the stadium. Then, about 15 minutes’ walk from here, the Shiroyama Athletics Stadium, the venue for the match, came into view.

The stadium here has a capacity of 15,000, according to the data. The capacity of the main stand is thought to be approximately 1,500. The number of spectators on the day was approximately 700.

The National Women’s Rugby Football Championship was previously known as the National Women’s Rugby Football Exchange Tournament, rather than the Japanese Championship, due to the small number of women playing rugby. With the increase in the number of players, the name was changed to the current name in 2014. The winning and runner-up teams from the Kanto tournament and the winning and runner-up teams from the Kansai tournament (including Kyushu) are eligible to participate.

The results of the semi-finals are as follows. The venue was the Suzuka Football and Rugby Stadium in Mie Prefecture.

1/22 Game 1: Kyushu Nagato Joint Team vs Japan University of Physical Education Club Women.

(Nihon Taiiku University Rugby Club Women won 0-33 to advance to the final.)

1/22 2nd match: PEARLS vs Tokyo Sankyu Phoenix Rugby Club

(The Tokyo Sankyu Phoenix Rugby Club won 19-34 to advance to the final.)

Let’s introduce the two teams that will play on this day.

First up are Tokyo Sankyu Phoenix.

The Tokyo Sankyu Phoenix is a club team based in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, founded in 2002. At the time of its foundation, the team was formed mainly by OGs of Nihon Taiiku University, which we will be playing today. This is the first time the team will try to win the Japanese championship as a stand-alone team.

Today’s starting line-up is as follows.

Tokyo Sankyu Phoenix
1Megumi TAKAGI159cm88kg29 
2Natsuki KASHIWAGI158cm75kg24 
3Ayumi KOKAJI158cm75kg22 
4Jade CORTIS178cm78kg24 
5Yuna SATO169cm75kg24Japan
6Michi KURAMOCHI155cm58kg24 
7Nana NAGATOSHI159cm64kg21 
8Misaki SUZUKI163m63kg30Japan 31cap
9Yumeno NODA164cm61kg25 
10Aoi KUROKAWA164cm67kg25 
11Minami SHIKAO159cm58kg25 
12Mana FURUTA167cm68kg25Japan 18cap 
13Suzuha OKAMOTO155cm60kg20 
14Triver NIA167cm68kg24 
15Yume OHKURODA157cm62kg28Japan 7th

** Player to watch **

Misaki SUZUKI. 163 cm, 63 kg, 30 years old. Position = FL, No. 8, Japan national team cap 31. A leader in women’s rugby with a pioneering spirit, she was selected for Japan’s national team in 2010 and has been a long-time one of the leader of the national women’s team. She was also the captain of the team in the final on that day.

Next, I would like to introduce the Nihon Taiiku University(=NTU) Women’s Rugby Club.

The club was founded in 1988. Initially, the club had only two members and practised alongside the men’s rugby team. In 1999, the club was finally promoted to an official rugby club. In 2002, Phenix, the team we play today, was born as an OG team. Today’s match is, so to speak, a showdown between the same team from Nihon Taiiku University(=NTU). Since the Japan Women’s Rugby Championship was established to decide the best women’s rugby team in Japan, NTU’s women’s rugby team has won the championship five times.

Today’s starting line-up is as follows.

Nippon Sport Science University
1Nanako USHIJIMA164cm77kg20 
2Mei ZIZOUDOU164cm75kg21Japan
3Hinata KOMAKI166cm78kg21 
4Sumika ABE168cm73kg22 
5Mio NISHIMURA168cm83kg20Japan
6Soyoka KINOSHITA160cm67kg22 
7Sakurako KOURAI167cm70kg19Japan
8Yuua HORIKAWA168cm73kg22 
9Sara  TAKAHASHI153cm57kg21 
10Yurina SHINNO178cm88kg25 
11Honoka TSUTSUMI153cm57kg25 
12Miho HITORA163cm66kg22 
13Rinka MATSUDA170cm78kg21Japan 9cap
14Akari HIGASHI170cm78kg21 
15Natsuki OHUCHIDA163cm62kg20 

** Player to watch **.

Nanako USHIJIMA. 164 cm, 77 kg, 20 years old. Position = prop. A graduate of Kanto Gakuin Rokuura High School. A candidate for the Japan national team. Started playing rugby in the first year of primary school, and her rugby sense shines through, backed up by her experience. She is also a very good runner and has played well in 7-man competitions. Her current position is prop, but she is also expected to play an active role in the FW third row.

So, let the game begin.

Let’s get the game underway.

Phoenix actively supplied the ball to the backs and launched open attacks. In contrast, NTU attacked with SO SHINNO’s kicks as the starting point.

On the physical side, Phoenix were slightly better at set pieces. In the first half, Phoenix attacked almost exclusively in the opponents’ territory, creating numerous scoring chances. However, they just couldn’t get past the NTU defence in front of the in-goal.

27 minutes into the first half:

NTU won the ball and each BK player advanced their position with a kick. When NTU kicked the ball into their own half, Phoenix FB OHKURODA tried to kick it back, but NTU CTB MATSUDA charged and the ball rolled deep into enemy territory. Phoenix managed to secure the ball and when SO KUROKAWA tried to kick it back, NTU CTB MATSUDA charged again, MATSUDA caught the ball and ran into the enemy in-goal to score a try. NTU SO SHINNO scored the conversion goal after the try to make the score 0-7.

35 minutes into the first half:

NTU’s tactic of gradually advancing from their own line with kicks saw them move deep into enemy territory. From here, NTU developed from a tight pack on the left edge and CTB HITORA kicked a pass which WTB HIGASHI caught well to score a try in the middle of the enemy in-goal on the right. The conversion goal after the try failed, leaving the score 0-12.

43 minutes into the first half:

Phenix SO KUROKAWA kicked out of their own half, which went out beyond the enemy 22m line, so the 50-22 rule was applied and Phoenix had their own lineout just beyond the enemy 22m line. From this point, Phoenix made numerous attempts to advance, mainly through the FWs, in an attempt to score, but they were unable to cross the goal line. However, in the closing minutes of the first half, in a tight battle in front of the enemy in-goal, hooker KASHIWAGI dived into the middle left of the in-goal to score a try. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 7-12.

At the end of the first half, Phoenix had a slight physical advantage over NTU and had the upper hand in the set-piece, keeping the game in opposition territory for most of the first half, but were unable to break through their opponents’ defence and score. In contrast, NTU made the most of the few chances they had to get behind their opponents with kicks, which effectively led to scores. However, depending on their tactics in the second half, the game could go either way.

So let’s get the second half underway.

2 minutes into the second half:

The second half began with the Phoenix kick-off. In the first half, NTU boasted an iron-clad day defence, but early in the second half, the defensive net broke down in places and was breached three times, allowing Phoenix to come close to scoring in-goal. Phoenix, from a cluster formed in front of the goalposts, developed to the left and the ball was passed from the SO to the left WTB, with left WTB SHIKAO scoring a try in the left corner of the in-goal. The conversion goal after the try failed and the score was tied 12-12.

9 minutes into the second half:

From the kick-off after the try, NTU moved forward, mainly through their FW players, to close in on the enemy in-goal, forming a cluster at the left corner of the enemy goal posts, where prop KOMAKI attacked the side of the cluster and scored a try in the middle left of the in-goal. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 12-19. NTU took the lead again.

16 minutes into the second half:

From deep in their own half, the Phoenix team moved to the right and the ball was passed to right WTB NIA, who raced through at high speed to get in front of the enemy in-goal. NTU managed to hold off Phoenix’s NIA in front of their own in-goal, but in the tight pack in this position, they committed an infringement. From there, Phoenix hooker KASHIWAGI rushed forward and scored a try on the right side of the goal post. The conversion goal after the try failed and the score was 17-19. Phoenix were again two points behind.

27 minutes of the second half:

With 12 minutes remaining in the game, Phoenix were attacked by NTU at this time and were unable to push back. In response, NTU showed effective attacking moves, such as BK development and kicks to the back of the opposition’s defence. From a corner in their own half, Phoenix passed the ball from the SH to the SO, who attempted to kick the ball, and NTU FB OHUCHIDA successfully charged in. OHUCHIDA picked up the ball herself and scored a try in the middle left of the enemy in-goal. The conversion goal after the try failed and the score was 17-24.

30 minutes of the second half:

From the kick-off after the try, both teams kicked deep with each other. Phoenix counter-attacked through the middle of the opposition defence with left wing WTB MASUDA, who took over as a substitute. Phoenix went close to the post at once, but NTU held them off. However, Phoenix was able to move to the left through the crowd and the ball was passed from the SO to CTB OKAMOTO, who scored a try in the left corner of the in-goal. The conversion goal after the try failed, but Phoenix were again within two points with the score 22-24.

39 minutes into the second half:

NTU showed a tactic of consuming the remaining time by taking their time and attacking slowly, mainly through the FWs in enemy territory. However, a painful knock-on in a maul resulted in the ball going to Phoenix. From here, Phoenix almost made their final attack, moving the determined right WTB NIA to the left flank. Could Phoenix turn the ball free to NIA?

Phoenix quickly deployed from a deep position of their own in-goal, and with space created, the ball was passed to WTB NIA. From here, NIA lived up to expectations, cutting through the swerve and weaving through NTU defence to the 10m line on the left side of the opposition line.

With less than a minute left on the clock, NTU also had to use their last gasp of power to hold off NIA’s advance. From here, the Phoenix moved to the right edge of the field, looking to score a try, but NTU showed their mettle and stopped Phoenix advance just short of the 22m line on the right edge of the field.

From this cluster, the Phoenix deployed further left, laying a deep line to allow WTB NIA to pass free, and when she crossed to NIA on the left edge, there was a big space in front of her. Two NSU defenders also tried hard to drive NIA out of the ground, but NIA stepped up just in time to score a dramatic reverse final try in the left corner.

A conversion goal after the try was missed, but Phoenix turned the score around with a final try by WTB NIA, 27-24, to become this season’s Japanese champions.

The match was a high profile affair with both sides trading points and a dramatic end to the match. Phoenix became the first solo team to win the Japanese Championship.

** Jersey collection 72 **

This time, I would like to introduce a football jersey, but as an extra edition. It is a jersey of the Italian professional football team, the mighty Juventus. I bought it new second-hand on Yahoo Auctions for ¥2,500. The red, white and green colours representing the colours of the Italian flag are so beautiful that I couldn’t help but want one. This time, I was able to win the bid without any competition, so I was happy to get it at a lower price.


Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine


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