RUGBY JERSEY – League One Section 7 – Wild Knights vs Sungoliath

 (Written by Azul: March 14, 2024)

On February 17, 2024, the seventh round of LEAGUE ONE was played between Panasonic Wild Knights (2nd last season) and Suntory Sungoliath (4th last season).

So far this season, the Wild Knights are in first place with a 6-0 record, while Sungoliath is in third place with a 5-1 record. The match was a topsy-turvy matchup that Japanese rugby fans were eagerly awaiting.

The venue for this match was Kumagaya Rugby Ground, the home ground of Wild Knights. It took three hours one way to go out from my home (Hachioji City, Tokyo).

The number of spectators who came to watch the match that day was 12,030.

It was indeed a good matchup of top-ranked teams. Kumagaya Rugby Ground has a very different atmosphere from Chichibunomiya Rugby Ground.

Since it is the home ground of the Wild Knights, an estimated 80% of the spectators on this day were Wild Knights fans, but there were also some avid Sungoliath fans in attendance.

League One’s games this season have been more and more closely contested, and each venue has become more and more exciting. One of the reasons for this may be that the world stars of the RWC 2023 in France can be seen in person at each of the Japanese venues. Last season, the average attendance was less than 5,000, partly due to the impact of the new corona outbreak, but this season, the number of spectators has been over 10,000 at many matches. I hope that the number of rugby fans will continue to increase in Japan.

Now, let me give you an update on the two teams that will be playing this time.

First, let me introduce the home team, the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights.

They won the Top League in the 2020-2021 season and the League One championship in the 2021-2022 season. Last season, they were runners-up in League One, and this season, they have won six straight games and are in first place in League One. In addition, they were the only Japanese team to win against a top Super Rugby team at the recently held The Cross Border Rugby. In both name and reality, they are the strongest rugby team in Japan. Their style of play is solid defense and quick attack. It will be interesting to see if they can extend their winning streak against a strong Sungoliath team.

Today’s starting lineup is as follows.

Panasonic Wild Nights
1Craig Miller186cm116kg33Japan 17cap
2Atsushi Sakade180cm104kg30Japan 41cap
3Taiki Fujii183cm114kg25 
4Mark ABBOTT197cm112kg33 
5Lood De JAGER206cm127kg30Soth Africa 65cap
6Shota FUKUI186cm101kg24Japan 3cap
7Lachlan BOSHIER191cm110kg29 
8Jack CORNELSEN195cm110kg29Japan 20cap
9Taiki Koyama171cm74kg29Japan
10Rikiya Matsuda181cm92kg29Japan 37cap
11Marika KOROIBETE182cm96kg31Australia 59cap
12Damian De ALLENDE190cm105kg32Soth Africa 78cap
13Dylan RILEY187cm102kg26Japan 18cap
14Tomoki OSADA179cm90kg24Japan 7cap
15Ryuji Noguchi177cm83kg28Japan 14cap

** Player to watch **

Lood De JAGER. 206 cm, 127 kg, 30 years old. Position = lock. South Africa cap=65. He was a key player in the South African national team, the strongest team in the world today, and competed in consecutive RWC 2015 and 2019.At RWC 2023, he was left out of the South African national team due to poor condition just before the tournament. However, by the start of League One, he had recovered and was named in the starting lineup. He played an outstanding role in the recent Cross Border Rugby match against the Chiefs, and as a key player for the Wild Knights, he will be a player to keep an eye on in this match.

Next, let us introduce the visiting team, Suntory Sungoliath.

Suntory Sungoliath is a rival team that competes with Wild Knights for the championship almost every season, winning the championship four times in the Top League and boasting the No. 1 player depth in Japan. Even Japanese national team players have difficulty becoming regular members of Sungoliath. In the recent Cross Border Rugby, they suffered a heavy defeat against the Blues of Super Rugby. It was a disappointing result for the team representing Japan, but Sungoliath fans are hoping that the team will be able to show what they have learned from that loss in today’s match.

Today’s starting lineup is as follows

Suntory Sungoliath
1Yukio MORIKAWA180cm113kg30Japan 2cap
2Kosuke Horikoshi175cm100kg28Japan 7cap
3Shinnosuke Kakinaga180cm115kg31Japan 12cap
4Sam JEFFRIES198cm114kg30 
5Harry HOCKINGS206cm118kg25 
6Kanji Shimokawa188cm105kg24Japan 5cap
7Sota OKETANI175cm98kg29 
8Hendrik Tui188m110kg35Japan 47cap
9Yutaka Nagare165cm75kg31Japan 36cap
10Mikiya Takamoto171cm80kg22 
11Shota EMI183cm95kg32 
12Ryoto Nakamura181cm92kg32Japan 39cap
13Taiga OZAKI184cm93kg25 
14Seiya Ozaki175cm85kg28Japan 4cap
15Cheslin Kolbe172cm80kg30South Africa 31cap

** Player to watch **

Cheslin Kolbe. 172 cm, 80 kg, 30 years old. Position = FB; South African Cap = 31. The biggest star of the players who joined League One this season. He has been playing a central role in the team since the start of the season, and is a very talented player. 172cm in length and a regular member of the South African team, where many of the players are over 2m tall, he is a small man, but he is not a mere specimen. He is truly a “small giant. He is winning the hearts of Japanese fans with his steady technique on the ball, his precise decision making as a FB, and his spirit of never giving up in the game. We will be watching to see how he performs on this day.

Now, let the match begin.

Before the game started, many people in the stadium were saying that Wild Knights would win by a large margin against Sungoliath. Kumagaya is the home ground of Wild Knights, so it is only natural that the local fans are very fond of Wild Knights. It is only natural that local fans would think so.

However, you never know until actually the game finished.

4 minutes into the first half:

Wild Knights caught the ball off the kickoff and made some solid advances into Sungoliath territory. Wild Knights’ flanker BOSHIER held up the ball and drew a not-release-the-ball infringement. The SO MATSUDA made a steady effort to score the first penalty goal. The score was 3-0.

9 minutes into the first half:

Sungoliath got into the opponent’s territory, and with a series of attacks, which is one of the team’s strong points, they moved forward. From the center of the opposition territory, Sungoliath first moved to the left, and then on the left flank, approached the opposition’s in-goal. There, they were caught by the Wild Knights’ defenders, but from there, the team made a big move to the right and passed from FB to No.8, CTB, and finally to WTB OZAKI, who scored a try in the right corner of the enemy in-goal. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, and the score was 3-7, Sungoliath was back in front.

11 minutes into the first half:

The Wild Knights connected with the ball from their own line and gradually moved forward into enemy territory, where they had a tight battle, and inside CTB De ALLENDE received the ball and moved forward, outside CTB RILEY advanced into the enemy’s in-goal and scored a try in the middle of the left field. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, and the score was 10-7, Wild Knights were back on top.

25 minutes into the first half:

The first half started out with a scoring rush by both teams, but during this period, both sides continued to create opportunities that did not lead to scores.

However, as the Wild Knights pushed deep into enemy territory, Sungoliath committed an uncharacteristic foul. Then SO MATSUDA of Wild Knights scored by PG to make the score 13-7.

32 minutes into the first half:

After a mistake by the Wild Knights, Sungoliath won the ball and attempted a series of attacks. The ball was connected well and deep into enemy territory, the Wild Knights were fouled over the top in a tight pack, giving Sungoliath the opportunity to go for the PG. Sungoliath’s SO TAKAMOTO made steady progress on the PG, making the score 13-10.

The first half ended with the score at this point. The teams played to their strengths, and the score remained close heading into the second half.

Let the second half begin.

5 minutes into the second half:

Sungoliath’s regular SO this season is TAKAMOTO from Teikyo University, who is expected to be the commanding force of Japan’s national team for RWC2027, and this was his first match against MATSUDA, the current SO of Japan.

Sungoliath attacked in the enemy territory early in the second half, and after a series of attacks on the enemy in-goal, TAKAMOTO took his opponents by surprise and scored a DG.

The score was now tied 13-13.

6 minutes into the second half:

Sungoliath, buoyed by their first goal of the second half, got on the board with a counter attack from their own half, and SO TAKAMOTO exploited a hole in the opponent’s defense to run all the way to the enemy midfield. Sungoliath then launched a series of brilliant attacks, culminating in CTB NAKAMURA’s try at the left corner of the enemy goal post. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 13-20, and Sungoliath finally succeeded in turning the tide.

18 minutes into the second half:

The Wild Knights, who always attack in the second half of every game, showed their class in this game as well, as they counter-attacked from their own territory and WTB OSADA carried the ball deep into the enemy territory past defense after defense. There, the Wild Knights connected with a pass from the left corner to the right corner, where FB NOGUCHI ran to the right corner and scored a try in the right corner of the enemy in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try failed, and the score was 18-20.

21 minutes into the second half:

The match was a close contest with both sides showing their strengths. After a brief stalemate, Wild Knights drew an infringement from Sungoliath deep into enemy territory, giving them a PG opportunity. Wild Knights’ SO MATSUDA scored to make the score 21-20, and the Wild Knights were back on top.

41 minutes into the second half:

Sungoliath had a chance to go deep into enemy territory and won the lineout, but made a costly mistake when they lost the ball to their opponents. The Wild Knights made the most of this opportunity and attacked deep into enemy territory. The Wild Knights, who are very good at their game, took their time and attacked, and with time running out, they forced their opponents into a foul and had a chance to score a PG.

Wild Knights’ SO MATSUDA finally succeeded in scoring a PG, and the game was over at that point.

The game was close, but the top-ranked Wild Knights kept their lead and extended their winning streak.

Sungoliath also showed that they have the potential to make a splash in the playoffs if they play like they did this day. We look forward to the next round.

** Jersey Collection 75 **

RWC2023 commemorative jersey. Made by Macron. During the RWC2023, the price was over 20,000 yen, but after the tournament ended, the price dropped to half, so I purchased it. I bought this jersey on the Internet after returning to Japan as a commemorative jersey for my visit to France. This was my first purchase of a Makron product. Macron jerseys are becoming popular in Europe, but they are not so common in Japan yet. The design is my favorite, so I will be happy if it becomes popular in the future.


Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine


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