RUGBY JERSEY – League One Section 11 – Spears vs Wild Knights

 (Written by Azul: April 5, 2024)

This time, I went to watch a night game for the first time in a while.

The game was held on Friday, March 22, 2024 from 19:00 at Chichibunomiya Rugby Ground in Minato-ku, Tokyo. The match was between the Kubota Spears, last year’s League One champion, and the Panasonic Wild Knights, the League One champion of the year before last. This matchup between two strong teams was expected to be a heated and exciting game.

The League One standings up to the 10th round are as follows.

2023-24League One Order(Division 1) 3/22 
1Saitama Wildnights100046303
2Tokyo Brave Lupas91042123
3Tokyo Sungoliath82038130
4Kobe Steelers64029118
5Yokohama Eagles6402941
6Kubota Spears5502676
7Toyota Verblitz5502435
8Shizuoka Blue Revs4602026
9Sagamihara Dynaboars46018-109
10Black Rams Tokyo28012-108
11Mie Honda Heat1904-378
12Hanazono Riners01002-264
WP=Winning Point 
GD=Goal Difference 

It had been a while since I had seen a night game, but since it was still March, it was a little cold, but many office workers were watching the game on their way home from work. The total number of spectators on that day was 9,491.

As for the two teams playing this day, the Wild Knights are in first place and are the only team to have won all of their games. Spears, on the other hand, is currently in sixth place and needs to close the gap to five points to qualify for the playoffs. With six games remaining, the Spears should be able to close the gap between themselves and the top 4 teams.

Let me introduce the two teams that will be playing on this day.

First, an update on the host team for the day, the Kubota Spears.

Last season, they won the League One championship for the first time, and this season, they are aiming for back-to-back championships. However, they have struggled quite a bit so far, with 5 wins and 5 losses for a winning percentage of 50%. The main reason for this is that they are missing hooker Marcolm MARX due to injury. He is considered the best hooker in the world and was the nucleus of Spears’ FW, so the team’s set plays have become unstable. In addition, the team’s commanding presence, former Australian SO Bernard FOLEY, also left the team early this season with an injury, contributing to the team’s struggles. However, for the Spears’ reserve players, this is a chance for them to play in the game, and we hope that they will be able to improve their player lineup.

The starting lineup for the day was as follows

1Kota KAISHI172cm102kg29 
2Dane COLES184cm110kg36New Zealand 90 cap
3Kengo KITAGAWA178cm110kg31Japan 3cap
4Uwe HELU193cm120kg33Japan 18cap
5David BULBRING199cm113kg34 
6Finau TUPA190cm115kg34 
7Peter L. LABUSCHAGNE189cm106kg34Japan 19cap
8Takeo SUENAGA178cm98kg29 
9Shinobu FUJIWARA171cm76kg25 
10Tomoki KISHIOKA178cm85kg26 
11Hiroyuki YAMASAKI174cm85kg25 
12Harumichi TATEKAWA180cm93kg34Japan 56cap
13Rikus PRETORIUS193cm104kg25 
14Koga Nezuka173cm82kg25Japan 1cap
15Yuhei SHIMADA183cm87kg25 

** Player to watch **

Tomoki KISHIOKA. 178cm, 85kg, 26 years old. He is a graduate of Waseda University. He joined the Spears with high expectations after winning the University Championship in his university days, and started playing in games in his first year, but then FOLEY, the SO of the Australian national team, became a regular player, and he gradually started to play less and less. This season, after FOLEY was injured, he became a starter and took over the Spears’ commanding position. Every time he appears in a game, he wows the audience with his dynamic play, using the ground widely as he is known for. He hopes to make this season a breakthrough year.

Next, I would like to introduce the Visitor Team, Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights.

They became the only team in League One to win all of their matches in Section 9 against Brave Lupas, and took a step forward toward winning the championship this season. The regular members of the team boast a depth of players that could be called a world-class team, and with the return of Japanese flanker Ben GUNTER and WTB player TAKEYAMA from injury, the team is now well-positioned to win this season’s League One championship.

This day’s starting lineup was as follows

Panasonic Wild Nights
1Craig Miller186cm116kg33Japan 17cap
2Atsushi Sakade180cm104kg30Japan 41cap
3Asaeli Ai VALU187cm115kg34Japan 30cap
4Liam Mitchell197cm117kg28 
5Lood De JAGER206cm127kg30Soth Africa 65cap
6Ben GUNTER195cm120kg26Japan 8cap
7Lachlan BOSHIER191cm110kg29 
8Jack CORNELSEN195cm110kg29Japan 20cap
9Taiki Koyama171cm74kg29Japan
10Rikiya Matsuda181cm92kg29Japan 37cap
11Koki TAKEYAMA175cm87kg27Japan 1cap
12Damian De ALLENDE190cm105kg32Soth Africa 78cap
13Dylan RILEY187cm102kg26Japan 18cap
14Tomoki OSADA179cm90kg24Japan 7cap
15Takuya YAMASAWA176cm84kg29Japan 6cap

** Player to watch **

Koki TAKEYAMA is 175cm, 87kg, 27 years old. He is a graduate of Teikyo University. He missed the first half of this season due to injury, but finally returned to the team mid-season. As a utility player, he can play any position in the BK, but he has a wide vision of the entire ground and always reads the flow of the game. His ability to appear at the right moment to score a try makes him a genuine scorer.

Let’s start the first half.

4 minutes into the first half:

Early in the game, Spears had a PG opportunity due to a foul by their opponents in enemy territory. FB SHIMADA scored the first goal for Spears. The score was 3-0.

14 minutes into the first half:

The Wild Knights attacked in enemy territory, and first WTB TAKEYAMA broke through on the left touchline and advanced about 20 meters, where TAKEYAMA was held up by the Spears defense, but the WildKnights then moved to the right and the ball was passed to CTB De ALLENDE, who broke through the enemy line and scored a try right under the goal post in the enemy’s in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 3-7 in favor of the Wild Knights.

20 minutes into the first half:

The Wild Knights entered the enemy territory and attacked in succession, gradually moving forward and passing the ball to WTB TAKEYAMA on the left flank, who cut through the opposing defenders in the narrow space on the left flank, and scored a try in the left corner of the enemy in-goal. TAKEYAMA showed that his try-scoring instinct has not diminished in spite of his long absence this season.

The conversion attempt after the try failed, and the score was 3-12.

29 minutes into the first half:

Wild Knights again dominated the ball, and from a lineout deep on the left side of the opposition line, they mauled their way forward. The Wild Knights’ SH KOYAMA ran through the dense side of the maul and scored a try in the left center of the enemy’s in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 3-19.

38 minutes into the first half:

SO MATSUDA kicked a short punt, which was caught directly by CTB RILEY, and he brought it right under the goal post in the enemy’s in-goal for a try.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 3-26. The first half ended with this score, and Wild Knights took a 23-point lead.

Spears should have come into this match looking for a must-win, but they were unable to make any headway against the Wild Knights’ defensive formation. On the contrary, when Wild Knights deployed a series of attacks, they exploited holes in their opponents’ defenses at key points to make progress.

This game was the same matchup as last season’s final, so we expected Spears to rally in the second half.

Let’s get the second half underway.

3 minutes into the second half:

It was again the Wild Knights who scored early in the second half.

They kicked into the enemy territory, and SH KOYAMA quickly re-gained the ball as it rolled over, and then ran to the left, where FB YAMASAWA ran in to create a numerical advantage, where Yamasawa quickly cut in and scored a try in the middle left of the enemy in-goal. During this time, the Spears were unable to set up their defense and easily allowed the score to stand.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 3-33.

14 minutes into the second half:

The Wild Knights gained control of the ball as the game wore on, leaving Spears on the defensive. They then attacked deep into enemy territory and had a PG opportunity from a foul on their opponents. The Spears were already up by 30 points, but a penalty shot made it 3-36. This penalty shot demoralized the opposing team.

19 minutes into the second half:

Spears finally had an opportunity to score at this time. After a deep penetration into the enemy territory, the Spears secured the ball from a lineout on their own and mauled their way forward, matching Spears’ absolute scoring pattern, only to have the ball taken back by the Wild Knights.

From there, Wild Knights secured the ball from their own lineout from their own 22m line, and FL BOSHIER ran deep into the enemy territory, overcoming their defense. The ball was finally passed to CTB RILEY, who followed up and scored a try right under the goalposts.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 3-43.

24 minutes into the second half:

At this time of the game, Spears made some player changes and introduced some young players. Thanks to their efforts, the FWs fought well in a tight battle and created chances in front of the enemy goal. The team formed a maul in front of the in-goal on the right edge of the enemy line and went close to the in-goal, from which they moved to the left and SO KISHIOKA kicked a pass. WTB Yamasaki caught the ball and Spears scored their first try of this match.

The conversion goal after the try failed, but the score was 8-43.

31 minutes into the second half:

Toward the end of the match, Spears finally dazzled the crowd with their attacking play.

31 minutes into the second half:

In the final minutes of the match, the Spears finally dazzled the crowd with their attack as they formed a maul near the 10-meter line on the left edge of the enemy line. From there, hooker ERA became the center of a maul that quickly advanced more than 10 meters and scored a try to the left of the enemy’s in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 15-43.

34 minutes into the second half:

Spears scored back-to-back tries, but the Wild Knights showed their strength here.

The Wild Knights moved forward, controlling the ball in a tight battle, and when the enemy day defense broke down slightly, substitute SO Kyohei Yamasawa exploited the hole and broke through behind the opposing defense, scoring a try right in the middle of the enemy’s in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 15-50.

36 minutes into the second half:

The Wild Knights started from their own territory, and after a series of big gains, they moved into the enemy territory, where the Yamasawa brothers, SO and FB, exchanged passes in perfect coordination. FB Takuya Yamasawa scored a try in the right corner of the enemy’s in-goal.

The try was scored by FB Takuya Yamasawa in the right corner of the in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try failed and the score was 15-55.

42 minutes into the second half:

In the closing minutes of the match, Spears made a last gasp attack on the enemy’s in-goal and the ball spilled into the in-goal and was held up by replacement FL MOARA.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, and the final score was 22-55.

This was a rematch of last season’s final, but in terms of content, the Wild Knights won handily, and the Spears will be looking for revenge by finishing in the top four and qualifying for the playoffs. There is still more than a month left until the end of the season.


Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine


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