RUGBY JERSEY – National University Rugby Championship Final

 (Written by Azul: February 2, 2024)

The 60th National University Rugby Football Championship, which started last November, finally reached its final day on January 13, 2024. The venue was the National Stadium in Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo.

The two teams that faced the stage for the fine final were the Teikyo University Rugby Club, aiming for a third consecutive championship title, and the Meiji University Rugby Club, a traditional school aiming to win the championship on the 100th anniversary of its founding.

The number of fans who gathered at the National Stadium that day was 18,374. For a final, the crowd was small.

Unlike in previous years, the League One match was held at a different venue on this day, so the fans had to disperse. We expect the competition to be as hot as at other venues.

The two schools met once before on November 19 in an official match of the Kanto University Rugby Rivalry Group, and on that occasion, Teikyo University won handily, 43-11. Last season, Teikyo University beat Meiji University to the ground, but in this year’s fall match, Meiji University was no match for Teikyo University in the battle at the point of contact. The gap in power between the two was narrowing.

Here is the latest information on both schools going into the finals.

First, let’s start with the previous champion, Teikyo University.

Teikyo University Rugby Club was founded in 1970. Compared to Waseda University, Meiji University, and Keio University, Teikyo University has a shorter history, but its performance in recent years has been overwhelmingly superior to the other schools. The team won 9 consecutive university championships from the 46th to the 54th, then 58th and 59th, and is aiming for a third consecutive championship at this year’s tournament. 7 players, led by captain Himeno, were on the Japanese team for RWC 2023.

The team used to play running rugby like Waseda, but now plays all-around rugby, scoring points from all parts of the field, both FW and BK. Teikyo University itself is capable of competing with teams in the lower divisions of League One, but unfortunately, the difference in strength between the professional teams and the university teams is now so great that they no longer have the opportunity to play each other in the Japan Championship. Perhaps the current Teikyo University needs an opponent who can fully demonstrate its power.

This day’s starting lineup was as follows.

Teikyo University 
1Taishi TSUMURA172cm108kg22 
2Hayate ERA171cm100kg22U-18 JAPAN
3Taro UESUGI176cm113kg21 
4Takuma MOTOHASHI193cm118kg21 
5Ryeon YOON186cm108kg22 
6Keito AOKI187cm110kg21 
7Akito OKUI177cm103kg22U-18 JAPAN
8Shuto NOBUHARA182cm100kg21U-18 JAPAN
9Kumusu LEE174cm80kg21 
10Hitaka INOUE175cm80kg22 
11Tomu TAKAMOTO182cm90kg22U-18 JAPAN
12Yoshiki OMACHI172cm82kg19U-18,U-20 JAPAN,JJ
13Keito KAIDA180cm85kg22 
14Shinya KOMURA179cm87kg21 
15Taiki YAMAGUCHI177cm90kg22U-18,U-20 JAPAN
JJ=Junior Japan

** Player to watch **

Taiki YAMAGUCHI. 177 cm, 90 kg, 22 years old. Position = FB. graduated from Nagasaki Hokuyodai High School. representative of Japan U-18,U-20. He is a late bloomer, having only secured a regular position in his third year at Teikyo University, but the depth of Teikyo University’s roster is such that a player of this caliber cannot play until his third year, He has contributed to Teikyo University’s winning streak, and was expected to play a key role in the offense and defense in the finals.

Next, I would like to introduce the Meiji University Rugby Club.

Founded in 1922. This season marks the 100th anniversary of its founding. In order to win the championship on this 100th anniversary, the team has acquired a large number of promising new students, especially this season. The Japanese high school students entering this year are all highly capable players, known as the “Golden Generation of Rugby. Compared to other universities, which have acquired one or two U-18 Japan representatives, Meiji University has acquired as many as 10 U-18 Japan representatives this season. Unfortunately, the golden generation of players who played in this day’s final were not yet available at Meiji University, which has a strong roster of players, but Meiji University is expected to have great players in the tournament next year and beyond.

The starters for the day were as follows.

Meiji University 
1Junki TOKODA178cm103kg22 
2Junichiro MATSUSHITA173cm99kg22 
3Keijiro TAMEFUSA180cm110kg22U18 Japan
4Reijiro YAMAMOTO191cm111kg21U18 Japan
5Daichi SATO183cm100kg22 
6Yuta MORIYAMA183cm100kg22 
7Taisei FUKUDA173cm95kg21 
8Taishiro KIDO185m104kg21 
9Shu HAGIHARA173m77kg22 
10Kotaro ITO176cm86kg22 
11Kohaku EBISAWA173cm80kg19 
12Yuya HIROSE179cm94kg22U18 Japan
13Yuta AKIHAMA175cm85kg21 
14Kohei YASUDA183cm88kg20 
15Shotaro IKEDO181cm90kg22 

** Player to watch **

Kohaku EBISAWA. 173cm, 80kg, 19 years old. He is a graduate of Houtoku Gakuen High School. He is the only freshman among the regular members of Meiji University this season. He is not a member of the 10 U-18 high school representatives that Meiji University has acquired this season, but he has surpassed them in terms of his performance. His concentration on scoring chances and his decisiveness in scoring tries have made him an indispensable asset to Meiji University.

Let the game begin. Kickoff for the day was at 15:10.

3 minutes into the first half:

The temperature that day was very cold, cloudy and snowy.

Teikyo University attacked deep into the enemy territory at the start. Meiji University kicked the ball from an in-goal dropout, and Teikyo University secured the ball at the right edge of the enemy territory, and from there, the ball was deployed to the left. When Teikyo University’s WTB TAKAMOTO received the ball in the left corner, he was surrounded by three defenders, but he easily dodged them with cut-in play and scored the first try in the in-goal in the middle left of the enemy line. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 7-0.

It was a typical Teikyo University attack that kicked into high gear right from the start of the match.

As is Teikyo University’s winning pattern, once they score the first try, they start attacking in waves, and the crowd was excited as both sides attacked deep into the enemy territory on more and more occasions.

14 minutes into the first half:

Around this time, cold rain began to fall. Teikyo University dominated the scrums at set plays, but Meiji University was not far behind. Teikyo University then moved steadily forward into the enemy territory, closing in on the enemy in-goal, but Meiji University managed to push the ball back.

20 minutes into the first half:

The weather changed from rain to hail, and thunderstorms began to threaten the area near the stadium, so the game was suspended.

The interruption lasted for an hour.

Let’s see how this unexpected interruption will affect the rest of the match.

26 minute into the first half:

2 minutes after the break, Teikyo University made individual contact and kept pushing forward. Then, finally Teikyo University’s flanker AOKI scored a try in the left center of the enemy’s in-goal.

However, this try was disallowed by a video judgment.

Teikyo University regrouped from this point, and from a lineout near the 22-meter line, they formed a maul and surged forward, with hooker ERA scoring the try in the middle of the field. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, and the score was 14-0.

Teikyo University will have to keep up the momentum and push Meiji University over the line.

35 minutes into the first half:

Meiji University, which had a poor record at set pieces and in contact play around the tight pack, tried to use the ground more spaciously and attacked.

With a series of tightrope walking attacks, they managed to get deep into the enemy territory.

From a position close to the enemy in-goal, Meiji University’s CTB Akihama cut inside from the line and scored a try in the middle left of the enemy in-goal. The conversion goal after the try failed.

39 minutes into the first half:

Meiji University regained momentum in this period by scoring a try after being pushed back by Teikyo University from start to finish.

Meiji University was again pushed by Teikyo University to the in-goal, but Meiji University FB Ikedo kicked the ball back and it rolled around the 22-meter line in enemy territory.

The ball was wet with snow, and Teikyo University FB YAMAGUCHI knocked it on. This allowed Meiji University to attack the enemy goal line at once. From here, they formed a scrum of their own ball, from which they secured the ball, and Meiji University developed to the left side of the blind side, which passed to WTB EBISAWA, who dodged one of the opposing day defenders and scored a try in the middle of the enemy in-goal on the left side. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 14-12, and Meiji University was within 2 points at the end of the first half.

The first half ended there.

The game progressed with Teikyo University having the upper hand, but two tries in the final minutes brought Meiji University back to even terms. Can Meiji University keep this momentum going into the second half?

Let’s get the second half underway.

4 minutes into the second half:

Meiji University went on the offensive early in the second half, and just as they were getting into the enemy territory, they made a mistake on a sign play, which allowed Teikyo University to attack the other way. Teikyo University went deep into the enemy territory, but Meiji University committed a foul and Teikyo University opted for the PG. FB YAMAGUCHI made a steady kick to make the score 17-12.

8 minutes into the second half:

Teikyo University made a number of handling errors during this period, and the game became deadlocked. However, Meiji University committed an infringement just as Teikyo University was entering enemy territory. Teikyo University then opted for another PG, and FB YAMAGUCHI converted it to make the score 20-12, giving Teikyo University an 8-point lead.

10 minutes into the second half:

Teikyo University kicked an in-goal dropout, which extended to the halfway point, and Meiji University FB Ikedo caught it and attempted a DG from this position. Unfortunately, it was unsuccessful, but the crowd at the stadium was thrilled.

20 minutes into the second half:

The ground of the National Stadium became a blizzard as snow came down at a great rate. The snow made it impossible for the teams to connect the ball and attack in succession, so they kicked kicks against each other, and the team that made a mistake was the one that was attacked. Meiji University dominated the ball during this period and gradually pushed deeper and deeper into the enemy territory. With 7 to 8 meters to go, it was in-goal, but Meiji University committed an infringement and it became a Teikyo ball scrum.

Teikyo University then tried to kick the ball out, but Meiji’s WTB EBISAWA ran in from the outside and caught the ball in play.

However, Meiji University dropped the ball, which was kicked deep into the enemy territory by Teikyo University’s WTB TAKAMOTO, which was picked up by Teikyo University and deployed, and finally CTB KAIDA picked it up and scored a try right in the middle of the enemy in-goal. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 27-12.

23 minutes into the second half:

Meiji University was down by 15 points, but their spirits were not yet dampened. After entering the enemy territory, Meiji University’s SO Itoh made a spirited tackle, knocking down his opponent and creating a tight pack, where Teikyo University committed a foul for not releasing the ball. Meiji University opted to go for the PG, which CTB HIROSE converted to make the score 27-15.

37 minutes into the second half:

The snow and cold weather led to numerous handling errors by both teams, causing play to be suspended more often than not. Teikyo University got into enemy territory and drew a collapsing infringement from their opponents with a powerful scrum to close in on the enemy in-goal. From a penalty kick, Teikyo University had the ball in their own lineout, and after securing the ball, they moved forward in a maul, with hooker ERA scoring the final try in the right center. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, and the score was 34-15.

With just over a minute remaining, Teikyo University was assured of victory. In the end, Teikyo University’s SO INOUE kicked the ball out of the scrum to end the game.

The match turned out to be a hotly contested affair with many highlights, as Meiji University was within striking distance of Teikyo University until the 37th minute of the second half.

With this victory, Teikyo University has now won three consecutive University Championships. This is the end of this season’s college rugby, but what kind of rugby will be shown next season when the players are replaced? Personally, I am looking forward to seeing how the 19-year-old players, who are considered the golden generation, will develop.


Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine


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