RUGBY JERSEY – League One Section 12 – RICOH Black Rams vs CANON Eagles

 (Written by Azul: April 16, 2024)

On April 6, 2024, I went to Komazawa Park Athletic Field in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo to watch the Japan Rugby League One, Section 12 match between the Black Rams and the Eagles. The game started at 13:00, and although the temperature was 15 degrees Celsius, the spring sunshine made for a warm day to watch the game,

Let’s check the League One Division 1 standings before the game starts. Including this day’s game, there are only 5 games left, and each team is striving to move up as much as possible in the standings.

2023-24League One Order(Division 1) 4/5 
1Saitama Wildnights110051336
2Tokyo Brave Lupas101046130
3Tokyo Sungoliath83039128
4Kobe Steelers74034161
5Yokohama Eagles7403343
6Kubota Spears5602643
7Shizuoka Blue Revs5602442
8Toyota Verblitz5602419
9Sagamihara Dynaboars56022-104
10Black Rams Tokyo29013-108
11Mie Honda Heat11005-383
12Hanazono Riners01102-307
WP=Winning Point
GD=Goal Difference

The bottom three teams in League One (10th~12th) will have to play for a spot in Division 2, and since the Black Rams are currently in 10th place and 9 points behind the 9th place Dynaboars, they need to win at least two of their remaining four games.

On the other hand, today’s opponent, Eagles, is currently in 5th place in Division 1 and is only a few points away from the 4th place position, which is the requirement to advance to the playoffs. They could not afford to drop this match either.

Let me introduce both teams that will play today.

First, let me introduce the home team, RICOH Black Rams.

Founded in 1953, the RICOH Black Rams reached its peak as a club in the 1970s, winning the Japan National Championship twice and the National Working Men’s Tournament three times,

In recent years, the team has fallen out of contention for championships, but as a member of Division 1, they have made their presence felt as a mid-tier team. They have played close games against top teams and have won some of their games by 7 points or less. The team also has national team players from various countries, making it an attractive team.

Today’s starting lineup was as follows

Black Rams
1Kazuma NISHI180cm108kg28 
2Hinata TAKEI171cm97kg26 
3Shohei OYAMA186cm115kg25 
4Harrison FOX198cm118kg23 
5Michael Stolberg202cm116kg31 
6Amato Fakatava195cm117kg29Japan 7caps
7Brodi McCURRAN193cm108kg29 
8Nathan HUGHES195cm126kg32England 22caps
9Shota YAMAMOTO166cm74kg32 
10Kohei Horigome177cm88kg28 
11Netani Vakayalia181cm95kg24Japan 7th
12Matt MCGAHAN185cm89kg30 
13Ryohei ISODA178cm90kg27 
14Daisuke NISHIKAWA184cm95kg26 
15Izac Lucas180cm85kg24 

** Player to watch **

Nathan HUGHES. 195 cm,126 kg,32 years old. Position = No.8. caps for England = 22. native of Fiji. very rangy back row player who also played 7-man rugby. He played for Fiji, NZ, and England before finally choosing to play for England, where he is the Black Rams’ leading scorer in front of the in-goal.

Now, let us introduce the visiting team, the CANON Eagles.

Founded in 1980, CANON Eagles is a relatively young club compared to Black Rams, and was promoted to the Top League in 2012, but after a long period of stagnation in the middle to lower divisions, they made a breakthrough in 2021 when they brought in the famous coach SAWAKI from Suntory, and last season they reached the playoffs and finished in third place. This season, the team has managed to recover from the injuries of two key players, South African national team SH Faf de Klerk and CTB Jesse Kriel, who were sidelined for an extended period of time at the beginning of the season, and has managed to improve its ranking to the point where it can aim for the playoffs with its existing squad. With only five games remaining, it will be interesting to see how far they can go in the standings.

The starting lineup for this day’s match was as follows

CANON Eagles
1Takato OKABE180cm105kg29 
2Shunta NAKAMURA176cm100kg29Japan
3Ryosuke IWAIHARA184cm115kg27 
4Max DOUGLAS201cm112kg23 
5Mathew PHILIP201cm117kg29Australia 31caps
6Kobus Van DYK196cm108kg29 
7Naoto Shimada181cm99kg32 
8Amanaki Lelei MAFI189cm112kg33Japan 29caps
9Koki ARAI175cm80kg30Japan
10Yu Tamura181cm92kg34Japan 70caps
11Masayoshi TAKEZAWA176cm86kg28 
12Yusuke KAJIMURA181cm95kg28Japan 2caps
13Rohan Janse van RENSBURG185cm108kg29South Africa 1cap
14Viliame TAKAYAWA184cm103kg26 
15Jumpei OGURA172cm80kg31Japan 4cap

** Player to watch **

Amanaki Lelei MAFI. 189 cm, 112 kg, 33 years old. He was rated as the world’s strongest No. 8 by a rugby magazine before the start of RWC2019, and was the leading FW for Japan in both RWC2015 and 2019, Although he was not selected for RWC 2023 due to injury, he is still a powerful breakthrough player. The match of the day will feature a showdown with HUGHES of the Black Rams as the No. 8.

The attendance for the day was 7,454. Toward the end of the season, the number of spectators gradually increased due to the warmer weather.

Now, the match was about to begin.

7 minutes into the first half:

The Eagles advanced deep into enemy territory after the Black Rams committed an infringement in their own territory, from which the Eagles elected to take a penalty kick, The Black Rams were not well-prepared to defend the maul and were easily able to advance, allowing Eagles hooker NAKAMURA to score a try right in the middle of the enemy in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, and the Eagles scored the first points of the game.

Since this was a match between the 5th-ranked Eagles of League One and the 10th-ranked Black Rams, I thought at this point that it would be a one-sided match for the Eagles as the first score was easily scored.

After the Black Rams scored the first goal, the defenders fought hard, and the sound of their bodies hitting each other during tackles could be heard in the stands. A professional game has to be like this to be interesting.

Black Rams is currently ranked 10, but I am not sure why they are in this position, as they have many attractive professional players such as FL FAKATAVA, a member of the Japan national team, No.8 HUGHES, a former member of the England national team, and FB LUCAS.

The first half also produced some decisive scoring chances, but they did not score.

39 minutes into the first half:

While the Black Rams attacked deep into enemy territory and missed several scoring chances, the Eagles, once they got deep into the enemy territory, continued their attack and went up to the enemy 22-meter line.

The Black Rams again committed an infringement in their own territory, and from there the Eagles went into a scoring pattern that started early in the first half, with a penalty kick, a lineout, and a maul. The scorer was FL SHIMADA.

The conversion goal after the try failed, and the score was 0-12.

The first half ended with this score.

The home team, Black Rams, was hoping to respond to the large crowd and get back on the scoreboard in the second half against the top-ranked Eagles.

At halftime, the mascots of both teams circled the stadium.

In case we were wondering, the Black Rams’ mascot is called RAMUMARU, and the Eagles’ mascot is called KANON Chan.

Now, let the second half begin.

9 minutes into the second half:

The Eagles attempted their third maul attack of the day from their own ball lineout deep in enemy territory. However, the Black Rams were able to respond and stopped the Eagles from advancing in a maul.

However, the Eagles were able to move to the right, and LO  Van DYK forced his way through just under the goal posts to score a try.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 0-19.

18 minutes into the second half:

The Black Rams also advanced to the enemy’s in-goal line and attacked a number of times with a maul, but the Eagles’ defenders were not allowed to keep the ball out of the enemy’s hands just before the Eagles’ goal line. The difference seemed to be in the accuracy of the maul attack rather than the strength of the individual players.

The Black Rams seemed to lose heart as they kept missing great scoring opportunities, and when the Eagles got the ball, prop Harasiri, who came on as a substitute, counter-attacked and gained the ball at once. The ball was then followed up by CTB KAZIMURA, who connected with the ball and scored a try in the left corner of the in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try failed, but the score was 0-24.

22 minutes into the second half:

The Black Rams started to turn the tide of the game with a series of substitutions of young players. Lock YAMAMOTO and SH MINAMI were the nucleus of the attack, and after a series of attacks they gradually closed in on the enemy in-goal, with SH MINAMI finally scoring a try in the right corner at the goal post.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 7-24.

32 minutes into the second half:

Perhaps inspired by the Black Rams’ counterattack try, the Eagles attacked in rapid succession, WTB TAKAYAWA of the Eagles received the ball at the right end, dragged two Black Rams defenders behind him, 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 7-31 in favor of the Eagles.

36 minutes into the second half:

In the closing minutes of the match, the Black Rams attempted another maul attack from a lineout in front of the enemy in-goal. The maul had been blocked by the Eagles up to this point, but the backs joined the maul and SH MINAMI scored his second try of the day in the left corner of the enemy’s in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try failed, and the final score of the match was 12-31.

The Black Rams were unable to accumulate any winning points, but the young players who played in the second half of the match were dynamic, and the team was able to reap some rewards for the remainder of the match and for next season.

The Eagles, on the other hand, took a step forward in their quest to advance to the playoffs with a win. The team will now work together as one and give their all in the remaining four games.


Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine


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