Urayasu D-Rocks VS Mie HONDA Heats
(Author: Azul, April 2, 2023)
This time, I travelled to Niigata Prefecture to watch the League One Division 2 top-of-the-table match between Urayasu D-Rocks and Mie HONDA HEATS. The venue for the match was Niigata City Athletics Stadium.
The weather was unfortunate on this day, it was raining. The temperature at the start of the match was 8 degrees Celsius, which was quite cold. If it had been three degrees colder, it might have snowed.
The distance from Hachioji City, Tokyo, to Niigata City, Niigata Prefecture, was about 330 km. At first, I thought about taking the Shinkansen, but when I calculated the transport costs, the motorway toll for the round trip was about 10,000 yen, and the petrol cost was about 5,000 yen, for a total of about 15,000 yen. In contrast, the round trip using the Shinkansen was 24,000 yen. In my case, I chose the car because I like driving.
As it was already late March, I thought it might not snow, but Niigata Prefecture is indeed a heavy snowfall area, and when I entered Niigata Prefecture through the 10 km long Kan-etsu Tunnel, the mountains were still covered with snow, as you can see in the photo above, and I was surprised at how the landscape had changed completely. The car was fitted with winter tyres, so I thought it would be possible to drive, but I had never experienced traffic jams on snow-covered roads, so I thought I would need to be well equipped when heading north in the future.
I left Hachioji City at 6:30 am, but arrived in Niigata at 11:30 am, which took about five hours.
Now, let’s check the League One Division 2 standings, which have reached their final section.
|2||Mie Honda HEAT||8||1||0||38|
|3||Toyota Shuttles AICHI||5||4||0||21|
|4||Shimizu Koto Blue SHARKS||3||6||0||12|
|5||Hino Red Dolphins||1||8||0||7|
|6||Kamaishi Seawaves RFC||1||8||0||4|
After the regular season, the teams are divided into the top three teams and the bottom three teams, with each team playing two games to decide the ranking. After the regular season, the top three teams and the bottom three teams play two games each. The top three teams from Division 2 then play a replacement match against the teams ranked 10-12 in Division 1, and the bottom three teams from Division 2 play a replacement match against the top three teams from Division 3. For each player, winning the replacement game means a better contract for the next season, so they will have a different level of enthusiasm for the game.
Let me introduce you to the two teams that will play today.
First, let me introduce the home team, Urayasu D-Rocks.
The D-Rocks, who last season called themselves the NTT Shining ARCS, have reorganised their team with the NTT-Docomo Red Hurricanes, also an NTT-affiliated company, to form a new team. In reality, leading professional players from NTT joined D-Rocks, while non-professional employees moved to the Red Hurricanes. Shinig ARCS was in Division 1 last season, but was relegated to Division 2 after losing to Sagamihara DYNABOARS in the replacement round. However, due to a number of losses caused by the new corona infection, the team had to play in the replacement round.
In the changeover round, the teams aiming for promotion from Division 2 are very determined to win, so the Division 1 teams have to be very determined or they will be kicked out.
Let’s take a look at the D-Rocks’ starting line-up for the day.
|2||Shokei Kin||177cm||95kg||31||Japan 7cap|
|3||Syuhei Takeuchi||183cm||115kg||25||Japan 2cap|
|4||Ryong Ji KIM||192cm||107kg||28|
|8||Liam GILL||185cm||103kg||23||Australia 15cap|
|13||Shane Gates||183cm||95kg||30||Japan 4cap|
|15||Takuhei Yasuda||177cm||80kg||26||Japan 2cap|
** Player to watch **
Otere BLACK. 185 cm, 86 kg, 27 years old. Position = SO.Born in New Zealand, U20 NZ national team, Maori All Blacks selection. BLACK has played a wealth of games for strong SUPER RUGBY teams and uses his excellent tactical eye to set up the D-Rocks’ game. His style of play is back-to-basics, firstly, he does not make handling or decision- making errors. He also has a high success rate with place-kicks. Injuries are the only thing to watch out for. He also knows how to put on a show as a professional player, making bold passes and kicks when the game is on the line.
Next up is the visiting team of the day, HONDA HEAT.
Last season, they finished second in Division 2 and went on to play in the replacement round. Their opponents in the replacement round were NEC Green Rockets, but with one win and one defeat, they were left in Division 2 on goal difference. This season, the team’s line-up was strengthened by strong reinforcements, including world-class players, with strong support from parent company HONDA. The team will be looking to accumulate more wins in order to achieve their long-cherished dream of promotion to Division 1.
HONDA HEAT’s starting line-up for the day is as follows.
|2||Seung Hyok LEE||179cm||110kg||25|
|5||Franco Mostert||200cm||112kg||32||South Africa 61cap|
|8||Pablo MATERA||190cm||111kg||29||Argentina 90cap|
|14||Yoshikazu FUJITA||185cm||92kg||29||Japan 31cap|
|15||Tom BANKS||186cm||93kg||28||Australia 21cap|
** Players to watch **
Pablo MATERA. 190 cm, 111 kg, 29 years old. Position = FL, No.8. Argentina cap = 90. Most notable foreign player to join League One this season.
World No.1 FL, also named in the World Best 15, with inexhaustible stamina, insatiable fighting spirit and sound judgement backed up by extensive international experience. Rugby Japan will play Argentina at RWC 2023, and he is the player to be most wary of.
So, let the match begin. Kick-off on this day was 12:00.
The stadium was colder on this day than it looked. Also, this Niigata City Athletics Stadium is close to the sea, so the wind was quite strong. The number of spectators who gathered in this bad weather was 1,853.
16 minutes into the first half:
It was HONDA HEAT who scored the first point. The game was played in wet weather and the ball was slippery, so the basic strategy was to invite infringements in opposition territory and then steadily pile on the PGs.
HEAT’s SO OH scored and HEAT made the score 0-3.
27 minutes of the first half:
A fair amount of rain had fallen, so neither team was able to develop significantly. Therefore, contact play by the FWs was the main focus, but in this match, D-Rocks’ FW collection was superior to HEAT’s. When it came to the densely contested battles, the D-Rocks dominated the ball about 70 per cent of the time.
Then, D-Rocks got into enemy territory and won the ball in a series of rucks, and an infringement by their opponents gave them a PG opportunity in front of the goal posts.
Here, D-Rocks’ SO Black scored the PG to level the score at 3-3.
34 minutes of the first half:
A scoreless stalemate continued in the strong rain. The two sides went back and forth in a densely contested battle, but were unable to make any significant gains. A try, typical of a rain game, was scored by D-Rocks.
The D-Rocks team entered the opposition territory and spread the ball down the right flank. Here, D-Rocks’ SO Black rolled in an excellent golopunt down the right flank. The ball rolled down the right sideline, did not go off the line and was braked instead of going off the line, and D-Rocks WTB SULUNGA kicked the ball further into in-goal, where he ran in and held the ball in the middle of the enemy in-goal on the right. The conversion goal after the try was also successful and D-Rocks made the score 10-3.
In a low-scoring game in the rain, D-Rocks’ SO BLACK, WTB SULUNGA did a professional job.
The score remained the same in the first half and the game went to half-time.
The cold and strong winds made it a physically demanding game for both players and spectators. Will the second half be as exciting as the match? The players of both teams will have to pay attention to the battle.
Let’s get the second half underway.
2 minutes of the second half:
D-Rocks cleverly connected through a hole in the opposition’s defensive network. From a tight pack on the left side of the opposition line, prop TAKEUCHI grabbed the ball, broke behind the opposition line, connected with WTB ISHI, gained further and finally SH IINUMA, who followed up from behind, scored a try in the left corner of the opposition in-goal.
D-Rocks’ SO BLACK then scored the conversion goal from a difficult position in the left corner.
The score was 17-3, with D-Rocks taking a 14-point lead.
HONDA HEAT’s first try of the second half was more a result of a momentary lapse than a loss of power. With both teams still physically strong, the match became a stalemate from this point onwards.
However, the content of the game was that D-Rocks were mostly in the opposition’s half and HEAT were in front of their own in-goal, and were able to survive the pinch points.
D-Rocks prop TAKEUHI was outstanding in this match. Although he has only a few years of experience as a prop, he is already a member of the Japan national team and shows great potential. He also stood out in this match for his mobility to move forward with the ball. He is still only 25 years old and should develop well for Japan.
24 minutes of the second half:
D-Rocks continued to attack deep beyond the opposition 22m line, and HEAT were fouled for offside under pressure. The position of the infringement was close to the near goal posts, so the D-rocks opted for a PG, which they successfully converted. The score was now 20-3.
29 minutes of the second half:
HEAT were being pushed deep into their own half, but from there they counter-attacked and FB BANKS broke away, SO OH followed up and got behind the opposition’s defensive network. From there, FB BANKS received a return pass and ran straight into the opposition in-goal, scoring a try in the in-goal on the left. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 20-10.
The match ended with the score remaining the same, and D-Rocks were victorious.
In bad weather like this, the Urayasu D-Rocks, with their strong FWs, were able to show what they are capable of. However, HONDA HEAT have a lot of decisive runners in the BK and would like to play in good weather conditions for the deciding match if possible.
The top three teams in Division 2 have now been confirmed. The final ranking will be decided by the Division 2 ranking round, which will be held from 9 Apr. The replacement matches will then take place from 5 May. The pairings for the replacement matches are as follows.
Division 2 1st place vs Division 1 12th place
Division 2 2nd place VS Division 1 11th place
Division 2 3rd place vs Division 1 10th place
So the team that finish higher in the Division 2 standings will be able to play in the replacement round, with a more favourable combination.
League One is reaching the climax of the season.
Stop the war.
Peace to Ukraine