RUGBY JERSEY – League One Playoff Semifinals: Panasonic Wild Knights vs Canon Eagles

 (Written by Azul: May 27, 2024)

On May 18, 2024, the Japan Rugby League One Division One playoff semifinals were held at Chichibunomiya Rugby Ground in Tokyo. This time I went to watch one of the two semifinal matches between the Wild Knights and the Eagles.

It was a beautiful sunny day at Chichibunomiya Rugby Ground, and the temperature reached 29 degrees Celsius. Such high temperatures may affect the condition of the players during the game.

The total number of spectators for the day was 15,464. The entrance time was 12:00 p.m. and the game started at 14:05 p.m. I was wary of the heat on the day of the game, so I chose to sit behind the goal with a roof this time. However, since they were unreserved seats, I arrived at the venue 5 minutes before the entrance time, thinking that I would not be able to get a good seat unless I entered the venue at the same time as the entrance started. Usually, I arrive 30 minutes before the game starts, but since I expected a large crowd for this game, it was a good decision to arrive early.

Here are the playoff pairings for this season,

5/18 Wild Knights (1st in league) vs. Eagles (4th in league)

5/19 Brave Lupas (2nd in the league) vs Sungoliath (3rd in the league)

The matches will be held at Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium in Chichibunomiya, Tokyo.

And the next week’s matches will be

5/25 3rd place match (Venue: Chichibunomiya Rugby Ground)

5/26 Final match (Venue: National Stadium)

The next week’s matches are as follows.

Finally, League One has reached the climax of the season.

Last year, the two teams played each other in the semifinals of the playoffs, with the Wild Knights winning 51 to the Eagles’ 21. The two teams have met twice in league play this season, with the Wild Knights winning both games. Furthermore, the Eagles have never beaten the Wild Knights in the past, and are currently on a 15-game losing streak.

However, before the match, Eagles’ HC Sawaki and captain Tamura expressed their strong determination to win the match in their pre-match interviews.

(SAWAKI HC is in the center of the photo.)

The playoffs are a knockout tournament, so anything can happen, and Eagles fans are expecting a giant-killing.

Here is the latest information on the two teams that will be playing on this day.

First, let’s look at the Yokohama Canon Eagles, who finished fourth in the league this season.

The captain of the team, Tamura, returns to the team after being absent for the previous two matches, and the main player, CTB KRIEL of the South African national team, also returns from the match. Unfortunately, one of the mainstays, South Africa’s SH Faf de CLARK, did not make it to the playoffs. However, the Eagles qualified for the playoffs despite the fact that two of their South African players were injured early in the league season. This means that the team’s ground game has improved from last season.

Today’s starting lineup was as follows

CANON Eagles
1Takato OKABE180cm105kg29 
2Yusuke NIWAI174cm95kg32Japan 10caps
3Tatsuro SUGIMOTO175cm110kg27 
4Liakimatagi MORI197cm114kg34 
5Mathew PHILIP201cm117kg30Australia 31caps
6Mitchel BROWN194cm110kg34 
7Sione HALASIRI180cm120kg24 
8Amanaki Lelei MAFI189cm112kg33Japan 29caps
9Koki ARAI175cm80kg30Japan
10Yu Tamura181cm92kg34Japan 70caps
11Masayoshi TAKEZAWA176cm86kg28 
12Yusuke KAJIMURA181cm95kg28Japan 2caps
13Jesse KRIEL185cm95kg30South Africa 46caps
14Viliame TAKAYAWA184cm103kg26 
15Jumpei OGURA172cm80kg31Japan 4cap

** Player to watch **

Yu TAMURA. 181cm, 92kg, 34 years old. Position = SO.

He is a graduate of Meiji University and participated in RWC2015 and 2019. Especially in RWC2019, as the main SO, he contributed to Japan’s RWC best 8 advance. He has the ability to exploit holes in the opposition’s defense and compete for the No. 1 spot in League One this season when it comes to kicking accuracy.

And now, an update on Saitama Wild Knights, the only team in League One to win it all this season.

This season, they are undefeated in 16 games, and as a team, they have scored the most scores and conceded the fewest scores. The team has grown into a complete team this season after losing in the playoff finals last season. The secret of their strength lies in the high level of tactical awareness of all members of the team and their strong team mentality that does not collapse even when irregularities occur. League One’s main concern this season has been to see which team could defeat the Wild Knights, and finally, the challenge has been carried over to the playoffs. Can the Eagles beat the Wild Knights?

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

Panasonic Wild Nights
1Daniel PEREZ185cm108kg27 
2Atsushi Sakade180cm104kg30Japan 41cap
3Taiki Fujii183cm114kg25 
4Jack CORNELSEN195cm110kg29Japan 20cap
5Lood De JAGER206cm127kg30Soth Africa 65cap
6Ben GUNTER195cm120kg26Japan 8cap
7Lachlan BOSHIER191cm110kg29 
8Itsuku ONISHI185cm98kg28 
9Taiki Koyama171cm74kg29Japan
10Rikiya Matsuda181cm92kg29Japan 37cap
11Marika KOROIBETE182cm96kg31Australia 59cap
12Damian De ALLENDE190cm105kg32Soth Africa 78cap
13Dylan RILEY187cm102kg26Japan 18cap
14Kohki TAKEYAMA175cm87kg27Japan 1cap
15Takuya YAMASAWA176cm84kg29Japan 6cap

** Player to watch **

Taiki KOYAMA. 171cm, 74kg, 29 years old. He is a candidate for the Japan national team. He is a graduate of Daito Bunka University. He has been the main SH for the Wild Knights since 2022 and has played in almost every game. One of his characteristics is his instantaneous power and has shown outstanding running ability and stamina. This season, we hope to see him selected for the Japan national team, and we look forward to seeing him play an active role on the international stage.

Let the match begin.

4 minutes into the first half:

The Wild Knights enter the enemy territory, and SO MATSUDA, surrounded by three enemy defenders, makes a big gain with his skillful running skills. And then Wild Knights,

CTB De Allende, who had returned from injury, broke through the opposing defense and made a series of gains, closing in on the enemy’s in-goal. From there, the Wild Knights crossed the enemy 22-meter line, and a move to the right by WTB TAKEYAMA, who was in the right corner, looked like it might be intercepted by the Eagles, but TAKEYAMA made a nifty cut-in, grabbed the ball, and ran in for the try in the right corner of the goal. WTB TAKEYAMA showed his advanced running skills.

After the try, the conversion attempt failed and the score was 5-0 in favor of the Wild Knights.

7 minutes into the first half:

After the Eagles had taken the lead, they entered enemy territory and had a PG opportunity about 20 meters from the goal post due to an infringement by their opponents. Eagles’ SO Tamura scored to make the score 5-3.

9 minutes into the first half:

Wild Knights caught the ball kicked into their own territory and tried to counter attack from there. Wild Knights FB Yamasawa ran to the left and passed the ball to WTB KOLOIBETE. KORNELSEN, a lock, followed him up the inside and connected with the ball.

Then he scored a try in the left corner of the enemy in-goal.

After the try, the conversion goal failed, and the score was 10-3.

Eagles’ SO TAMURA tried and failed to score a DG in the 16th minute of the first half, and in the 18th minute of the first half, TAMURA had a PG chance in a relatively easy position, but he could not score again.

27 minutes of the first half:

Wild Knights, on the other hand, had a PG chance in this period, and SO MATSUDA, who had failed to score two conversion goals so far, made a steady effort here to make the score 13-3.

The first half ended with the score 13-3, and although the Eagles were able to get the ball in front of the enemy in-goal several times, they were unable to score. The game was similar to the previous matchups. Can the Eagles put an end to their losing streak?

Let’s begin the second half.

4 minutes into the second half:

It was the Eagles who took control of the match first in the second half. After a foul by their opponents, the Eagles broke deep into the enemy territory, and from a lineout on the left side of the 22-meter line, the Eagles attempted to push forward in a maul, which they converted into a try in the middle of the field.

The try was scored by flanker Harasiri. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 13-10.

13 minutes into the second half:

The Eagles had scored no tries in the first half, but in the second half, the FW set-up and BK deployment were determined, and they became more dynamic as a team.

In the second half, the Eagles’ FWs gradually made progress by hitting the enemy day defense, and from there, they developed into the backs. The BK team used a lot of looping play, in which each player passed the ball to the left WTB TAKEZAWA, who made use of his natural ability to break through to score a try in the left corner of the enemy’s in-goal.

After this try, SO TAMURA succeeded in scoring the conversion goal from a difficult position.

The score was 13-17, and the Eagles finally succeeded in turning the score around. Eagles’ SO TAMURA, who had missed a few difficult PGs in the first half, made a series of PGs from difficult angles.

19 minutes into the second half:

Wild Knights, who had been unable to create any chances all through the second half, finally created a chance at this time of the game.

After a series of attacks from the Wild Knights’ own line, SO MATSUDA exploited a hole in the opposing defense and advanced forward at full speed, dodging Eagles’ FB OGURA with a step and coming close to the goal post in the enemy’s in-goal. The Wild Knights’ CTB De ALLENDE pushed the ball into the in-goal.

The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 20-17, and Wild Knights were back in it.

The Eagles could have tied the score with a single PG with 20 minutes remaining, but they went for the try on the next few chances. From the field,

The crowd screamed every time either team came close to scoring in-goal.

But in the end, the score remained unchanged, and the game was over. At the end of the game, the sight of many Eagles players kneeling on the ground, exhausted, left a strong impression on me.

As a result, the Wild Knights will advance to the playoff final to be held the following week, while the Eagles will play in the third-place game, also to be held the following week.

After the match, both teams were applauded for their efforts.


Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine


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