Wednesday, February 6, 2013

RUGBY IN JAPAN NEWSLETTER Volume 10, No.5

CONGRATULATIONS RIJ newsletter celebrates it’s 10th anniversary

RiJ brings the reader the first round of the National Championship this issue. By and large, the games were very disappointing affairs with the lop-sided results and poor crowds increasing the need to restructure this tournament in particular and the domestic season format in general. RiJ also includes the Top League 2012-13 Awards this week. In other news, Toyota Shuttles became the first team ever to win promotion to Top League through the promotion and relegation play-offs when they beat Sanix 34-28 in Fukuoka on Sunday.

Enjoy the read.

Ian McDonnell lives and works in Japan. He can be contacted at ianmcdo@apost.plala.or.jp

CONTENTS

  • The 50th National Championship 2013
  • Japan Top League 2012-13 Awards
  • HSB Asia Five Nations: Draw for Japan

The 50th National Championship 2013

Prior to 2009, the National Championship had an 8-team format for three years, but from 2009 the number of teams was increased to ten with the inclusion of two extra Top League sides. Thus, the National Championship now involves six Top League sides, the two top university teams, the winner of the Top Challenge Series and the Top Club team. The first round of the 50th National Championship 2013 kicks off on Saturday, 02 February 2013.

The top four finishers on the final Japan Rugby Top League table automatically qualify for the National Championship. At the completion of all thirteen rounds of the 2012-13 Top League season, Suntory Sungoliath topped the table followed by Toshiba Brave Lupus, Panasonic Wild Knights and Kobelco Steel Kobe Steelers. These four teams also participate in the Top League Play-off semi-finals with the two teams taking part in the final, that is, Suntory and Toshiba, receiving byes over the first two rounds of the National Championship.

In 2010, the Wildcard Tournament was introduced for the Top League sides that finished fifth to tenth on the final table. These six sides played off over two weekends to determine the final two Top League participants after the top four Top League finishers gained automatic qualification. In the 2013 Wildcard Tournament, Toyota Verblitz and Yamaha Jubilo qualified for the National Championship.

The two universities that participated in the 49th National University Championship final gained admission to the National Championship. Teikyo University defeated Tsukuba University in the final and consequently Teikyo qualified as University 1 and Tsukuba qualified as University 2.

In 2013, Kubota Spears (Top East), Toyota Industries Shuttles (Top West), Coca-Cola West Red Sparks (Top Kyushu) together with Mitsubishi Dynaboars as the winner of Top Challenge Two contested the Top Challenge One series with Coca-Cola as the winner gaining automatic entry to the National Championship as the Top Challenger.

In 2013, in the final of the 20th National Club Championship Rokko Fighting Bull (Kansai 1) beat Hokkaido Barbarians (Kanto 1) 49-0 to qualify for the National Championship as the Club Champion.

Round One

Date: Saturday, 02 February 2013

Kobelco Steel Kobe Steelers (Top League) 20 d Toyota Verblitz (Top League Wildcard) 5

Venue: Kintetsu Hanazono Rugby Ground, Osaka
Kick-off: 12:00
Referee: Tomoyuki Matsugu
Attendance: 4,560

Preview

Kobe finished fourth on the final Top League table for a place in the Play-off Series as well as automatic qualification to the National Championship. The Steelers lost to Suntory 38-19 in Tokyo two weeks ago in the Play-off semi-finals and have since had the time to prepare for their first game in the Championship. On the other hand, Toyota finished fifth on the final table and although they did not take part in the Play-offs the Verblitz won their place in the Championship through the knock-out Wildcard Tournament for Top League teams that finished fifth to tenth on the final table when they beat NEC 41-23 on this ground last Saturday. In the Top League rounds this season, Kobe and Toyota played out a 23-all draw back in September in a game that was also played in Nagoya. Both the Steelers and the Verblitz are two of the big improvers this season and there will be very little between these two traditional sides coming into this knock-out encounter. The key for Kobe will be in maintaining their overall season form and confidence after losing their last four games on the trot, while the form of Steven Yates and Stephen Brett will be crucial for Toyota.

Wrap-up

In perfect conditions for rugby, traditional Kansai rivals Toyota and Kobe started their National Championship campaigns with the loser knowing this would be the end of the season. Toyota kicked off to get the action under way, but the Verblitz suffered an early blow with key playmaker Stephen Brett limping off in only the 12th minute of play. Toyota were then forced to re-jig their line up throughout the first half but maintained overall team composure enough to only be behind 5-0 by halftime. The only points in the first period came from a try to Kobe centre Jaque Fourie who used his height advantage to climb above Toyota fullback Kenji Shomen from a pin-point cross kick from five-eighth Kyohei Morita. Flanker Josh Blackie extended the lead with the second Kobe try eight minutes into the latter half with the successful conversion making it 12-0. As the game moved into the final quarter of play the pressure was increasing on Toyota to get on the scoreboard but when giant hooker Takeshi Kizu crashed over for the Steelers in the 65th minute the task was getting all the more difficult for the Verblitz. Toyota finally got on the board with a late try to Steven Yates but a Peter Grant penalty at the death confirmed the win for Kobe with the final scoreboard reading 20-5 to the Steelers.

Coca-Cola West Red Sparks (Top Challenger) 47 d Tsukuba University (University 2) 15

Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground, Tokyo
Kick-off: 12:00
Referee: Kyosuke Toda
Attendance: 2,790

Preview

This season, Tsukuba University are going places they have never been before. Three weeks ago, the students played on their first ever National University Championship final and although the lost 39-22 to Teikyo University, runner-up status gave them a place in the National Championship for the very first time as University Two. Coca-Cola were relegated from Top League at the end of the 2011-12 season but have successfully regrouped and won promotion back to the top flight for the 2013-14 season. Coca-Cola won all three games in the recent Top Challenge Series to top the table and qualify for the Championship as the Top Challenger. The National Championship under the current format has not been a happy hunting ground for the runner-up university against the Top Challenger as no school is yet to win and progress to the second round. The closest any university has got was back in 2009 when Teikyo held Ricoh to a 25-all draw but ended up losing on an inferior try count. History is not on the side of Tsukuba and with Coca-Cola in very good form it will take a lot to break the hoodoo.

Wrap-up

Tsukuba posted first points in this knock-out first round clash in the National Championship with an early penalty but after that the opening stanza belonged to Coca-Cola. The Top Challenger played to its strength with the bigger, stronger foreign players leading the way with two-metre tall flanker Jonny Fa’amatuainu scoring two of four Coca-Cola tries while five-eighth Shaun Webb converted all the tries to help the Red Sparks to a 28-3 lead at halftime. The students stepped up in defence in the second half restricting Coca-Cola to just the one try by the hour mark, but with a comfortable 35-3 lead the Red Sparks could also now afford to sit on their lead. Tsukuba crossed for two tries later in the half but this did not affect the result with Coca-Cola going on to record a 47-15 to progress to the second round.

Teikyo University (University 1) 115 d Rokko Fighting Bull (Club Champion) 5

Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground, Tokyo
Kick-off: 14:00
Referee: Yuji Hosomomi
Attendance: 3,091

Preview

Teikyo won an unprecedented fourth National University Championship title in a row when they beat Tsukuba at the National Stadium in Tokyo three weeks ago setting up yet another match at this stage in the Championship against Club Champion, Rokko Fighting Bull. These two sides met in the same fixture last year with the students winning 83-12, while two years before that it was a similar story with Teikyo winning 76-7. The Kansai-based Rokko beat Hokkaido Barbarians 49-0 in the final of the Club Championship this year to earn their place in the National Championship for the third time but coming out of the club rugby system it is always difficult for these sides to match it with the pace and fitness of the university champions. As is the case with the second-best university, no Club Champion has ever progressed to the second round under the current Championship format and so Rokko look to be at long odds to create history.

Wrap-up

As expected, Teikyo started the game at pace giving the ball plenty of air producing two early tries for a handy 14-0 lead. A further two tries followed and by the 20-minute mark the students were out to a 28-0 lead with five-eighth Ryoto Nakamura leading the way with a try and four conversions. Teikyo went on to score a total of nine first half tries against a failing Rokko defence to balloon out the score to 59-0 by halftime. The tries kept coming in the second half as Teikyo completely dominated every facet of the game with the university champions runaway 115-5 winners.

Panasonic Wild Knights (Top League) 56 d Yamaha Jubilo (Top League Wildcard) 14

Venue: Kintetsu Hanazono Rugby Ground, Osaka
Kick-off: 14:00
Referee: Shuhei Kubo
Attendance: 4,977

Preview

Panasonic finished third on the final Top League table for a place in the Play-off Series as well as automatic qualification to the National Championship. The Wild Knights lost to Toshiba 20-8 in Tokyo two weeks ago in the Play-off semi-finals and have since had the time to prepare for their first game in the Championship. On the other hand, Yamaha finished sixth on the final table and although they did not take part in the Play-offs the Jubilo won their place in the Championship through the knock-out Wildcard Tournament for Top League teams that finished fifth to tenth on the final table when they beat Kintetsu 70-12 on this ground last Saturday. In the Top League rounds this season, Panasonic beat Yamaha 35-18 back in October in Tokyo. Panasonic and Sanyo as they were previously known have played in the past five Championship finals winning three but this time round they start their campaign from the opening round. Yamaha were bundled out by Toshiba at the same stage of the tournament last year and they will be working hard to progress to the second round and beyond this year.

Wrap-up

In the latter game in Osaka, Panasonic got on the scoreboard first with a penalty to fullback Atsushi Tanabe in only the second minute of play. Tanabe added another three points with a second penalty in the 19th minute to open up a 6-0 lead. With Panasonic starting to dominate up front, No8 Ryu Koliniasi Holani rumbled over for the opening try in the 21st minute on the back of a five-metre lineout. Tanabe could not add the extras but with an 11-0 lead the Wild Knights were starting to turn the screw. The hill was turning into a mountain when centre Seiichi Shimomura and lock Daniel Heenan added further five pointers to push out to a 23-0 lead by the half hour. The woes continued for Yamaha with lock Deryck Thomas copping a yellow card as the Knights took a commanding 30-0 lead into halftime. Right wing Tomoki Kitagawa crossed for his second try in the 7th minute of the latter half and with Yamaha trailing 37-0 a win was looking remote for the Jubilo. The scoreboard kept ticking over until the final whistle with Panasonic progressing in the Championship with a 56-14 win.

Japan Rugby Top League 2012-13 Awards

Champion: Suntory Sungoliath.
(2011-12: Suntory)
(2010-11: Sanyo)
(2009-10: Toshiba)
(2008-9: Toshiba)
(2007-8: Suntory)
(2006-7: Toshiba)
(2005-6: Toshiba)
(2004-5: Toshiba)
(2003-4: Kobe)

Runner-up: Toshiba Brave Lupus.

Top League Play-offs

Final:

Suntory Sungoliath (TL 1) 19 d Toshiba Brave Lupus (TL 2) 3

Date: Sunday, 27 January 2013
Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground, Tokyo
Attendance: 13,858

Semi-finals:

Suntory (TL 1) 38 d Kobe (TL 4) 19
Date: Saturday, 19 January 2013
Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground, Tokyo

Toshiba (TL 2) 20 d Panasonic (TL 3) 8
Date: Sunday, 20 January 2013
Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground, Tokyo

Japan Rugby Top League 2012-13

Team

P

W

D

L

F

A

Diff

BP1

BP2

Pts

1

Suntory

13

13

0

0

481

258

223

11

0

63

2

Toshiba

13

10

0

3

478

266

212

8

2

50

3

Panasonic

13

10

0

3

509

275

234

8

1

49

4

Kobe

13

9

1

3

468

255

213

9

2

49

5

Toyota

13

9

1

3

343

291

52

4

1

43

6

Yamaha

13

8

0

5

430

311

119

7

3

42

7

Kintetsu

13

6

0

7

356

308

48

5

4

33

8

NEC

13

6

0

7

399

375

24

7

1

32

9

NTT Comm.

13

7

0

6

240

313

-73

1

2

31

10

Ricoh

13

5

0

8

322

360

-38

5

3

28

11

Canon

13

3

0

10

287

382

-95

5

2

19

12

Kyuden

13

2

0

11

238

593

-355

5

3

16

13

NTT Docomo

13

1

0

12

217

524

-307

2

2

8

14

Sanix

13

1

0

12

256

513

-257

2

1

7

Four points for win, two for draw, one bonus point for four tries or more (BP1) and one bonus point for losing by seven or less (BP2).

Coca-Cola West Red Sparks and Kubota Spears won promotion through the Top Challenge Series.

Toyota Industries Shuttles beat Fukuoka Sanix Blues to win promotion with Sanix relegated and NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes are still to play Mitsubishi Dynaboars in their promotion and relegation play-offs to play in Top League for next season.

Best XV 2012-13:

The Best XV is chosen by a panel of members of the media, coaches and captains. In the tenth season of Top League the Best XV for the 2012-13 season was spread across six different clubs. Suntory dominated the choices this year filling seven of the fifteen spots, followed by Toshiba, Panasonic and Yamaha with two each. Kobe and Toyota had one each.

There were two players making the Best XV for the first time, following on from nine debutants last year. Toshiba lock Hitoshi Ono and Suntory wing Hirotoki Onozawa were both chosen for a record equalling eighth time. Suntory tighthead prop Kensuke Hatakeyama, Toshiba lock Hitoshi Ono, Suntory flanker George Smith, Toshiba flanker Michael Leitch, Suntory halfback Atsushi Hiwasa, Suntory five-eighth Kosei Ono, Kobe centre Jaque Fourie and Yamaha fullback Ayumu Goromaru all appeared in the XV last season. However, last season Kosei Ono was chosen as a centre from the Sanix club while Fourie was with Panasonic. Hitoshi Ono has appeared in the Top League Best XV for the last seven seasons in a row while Hatakeyama has appeared in the last five seasons in a row. Four of the fifteen were born overseas.

No.

Position

Name

Club

Times in

Best XV

1

Prop

Yoshimitsu Yasue

Kobe

1

2

Hooker

Yusuke Aoki

Suntory

3

3

Prop

Kensuke Hatakeyama

Suntory

5

4

Lock

Hitoshi Ono

Toshiba

8

5

Lock

Shinya Makabe

Suntory

2

6

Flanker

George Smith

Suntory

2

7

Flanker

Michael Leitch

Toshiba

2

8

No8

Takashi Kikutani

Toyota

2

9

Halfback

Atsushi Hiwasa

Suntory

2

10

Five-eighth

Kosei Ono

Suntory

2

11

Wing

Akihito Yamada

Panasonic

2

12

Centre

Jaque Fourie

Panasonic

2

13

Centre

Male Sau

Yamaha

1

14

Wing

Hirotoki Onozawa

Suntory

8

15

Fullback

Ayumu Goromaru

Yamaha

2

Top League Best and Fairest (MVP): George Smith, flanker, Suntory.

(2011-12: George Smith, flanker, Suntory)
(2010-11: Shota Horie, hooker, Sanyo)
(2009-10: Hitoshi Ono, lock, Toshiba)
(2008-9: David Hill, five-eighth, Toshiba)
(2007-8: Hirotoki Onozawa, wing, Suntory)
(2006-7: Teppei Tomioka, centre, Toshiba)
(2005-6: Goshi Tachikawa, fullback, Toshiba)
(2004-5: Lautangi Vatuvei, No8, Toshiba)
(2003-4: Yukio Motoki, centre, Kobe)

In his second season playing in Japan, former Wallabies and Brumbies flanker George Smith representing Suntory took out the accolade as Best and Fairest for the 2012-13 season, becoming the first player to win the award twice.

Play-off Series Best and Fairest (MVP): Tusi Pisi, five-eighth, Suntory.

(2012: George Smith, flanker, Suntory)
(2011: Akihito Yamada, wing, Sanyo)
(2010: Goshi Tachikawa, fullback, Toshiba)
(2009: Toshiaki Hirose, wing, Toshiba)
(2008: Hirotoki Onozawa, wing, Suntory)
(2007: Lautangi Samurai Vatuvei, lock, Toshiba)

Tusi Pisi was named the MVP for the Top League Play-off Series for the first time. The Samoan playmaker played the second half of the final from the bench and scored a crucial individual try late in the game that sealed the win for Suntory. Pisi also played a significant role in the second half in the win over Kobe in the semi-final.

Rookie: Kohei Yoshida, prop, Toyota.

(2011-12: Michael Leitch, flanker, Toshiba
(2010-11: Atsushi Hiwasa, halfback, Suntory)
(2009-10: Shinya Makabe, lock, Suntory)
(2008-9: Kensuke Hatakeyama, prop, Suntory)
(2007-8: Fumiaki Tanaka, halfback, Sanyo)
(2006-7: Tomoki Kitagawa, wing, Sanyo)
(2005-6: Shota Goto, halfback, Kobe)
(2004-5: Hiroki Mizuno, wing, Toyota)
(2003-4: Shin Kanto, five-eighth, Suntory)

In his first season of senior rugby after graduating from Teikyo University, Toyota prop Kohei Yoshida was named best youngest player for the season. This was the second time a Toyota player has taken this award after wing Hiroki Mizuno back in the 2004-5 season. Yoshida is a big man with a lot of potential and he has represented Japan at Junior Japan and U20 levels.

Top point scorer: Ayumu Goromaru, fullback, Yamaha, 160 points.

NB: The first three seasons of Top League consisted of 12 teams over 11 rounds. This was expanded to 14 teams over 13 rounds from the 2006-7 season. Points scored in the Top League Play-offs are not included in this count.

(2011-12: Ayumu Goromaru, fullback, Yamaha, 182 points)
(2010-11: Orene Ai’i, five-eighth, Toyota, 178 points)
(2009-10: Atsushi Tanabe, fullback, Sanyo, 191 points)
(2008-9: David Hill, five-eighth, Toshiba, 226 points)
(2007-8: Shotaro Onishi, inside centre, Yamaha, 139 points)
(2006-7: Ryan Nicholas, centre, Suntory, 159 points)
(2005-6: Keiji Hirose, five-eighth, Toyota, 181 points)
(2004-5: Keiji Hirose, five-eighth, Toyota, 152 points)
(2003-4: Daisuke Hihara, five-eighth, Toshiba, 147 points)

Yamaha fullback Ayumu Goromaru racked up a personal tally of 160 points from one try, 40 conversions and 25 penalty goals from 13 games to take the top point scorer award for the second season in a row. The next best point scorer was Panasonic fullback Atsushi Tanabe on 146 points. He is only the second player to win the award twice after Toyota five-eighth Keiji Hirose also won it back to back in 2004-5 and 2005-6.

Top try scorer: Akihito Yamada, wing, Panasonic, 20 tries.

NB: The first three seasons of Top League consisted of 12 teams over 11 rounds. This was expanded to 14 teams over 13 rounds from the 2006-7 season. Points scored in the Top League Play-offs are not included in this count.

(2011-12: Nemani Nadolo, wing, NEC, 19 tries)
(2010-11: Hirotoki Onozawa, wing, Suntory, 15 tries)
(2009-10: Hirotoki Onozawa, wing, Suntory, 14 tries)
(2008-9: Tomoki Kitagawa, wing, Sanyo, 12 tries)
(2007-8: Tomoki Kitagawa, wing, Sanyo, 14 tries)
(2006-7: Tomoki Kitagawa, wing, Sanyo, 19 tries)
(2005-6: Damian McInally, fullback, Kubota and Sene Taala, No8, Secom, both
with 10 tries)
(2004-5: Lautangi Vatuvei, No8, Toshiba, 18 tries)
(2003-4: Glen Marsh, flanker, NEC, 11 tries)

At the completion of all thirteen rounds, Panasonic wing Akihito Yamada took the crown as top try scorer with twenty tries setting a new record in the process. Giant NEC wing Nemani Nadolo (2011-12) and Panasonic (formerly Sanyo) team mate wing Tomoki Kitagawa (2006-7) previously shared the record with 19 tries.

Top goal kicker: Ayumu Goromaru, fullback, Yamaha, 155 points from 40 conversions and 25 penalties.

NB: The first three seasons of Top League consisted of 12 teams over 11 rounds. This was expanded to 14 teams over 13 rounds from the 2006-7 season. Points scored in the Top League Play-offs are not included in this count.

(2011-12: Ayumu Goromaru, fullback, Yamaha, 172 points from 38 conversions and 32 penalties)
(2010-11: Atsushi Tanabe, fullback, Sanyo, 152 points from 52 conversions and
16 penalties
)
(2009-10: Atsushi Tanabe, fullback, Sanyo, 171 points from 48 conversions and
25 penalties)
(2008-9: David Hill, five-eighth, Toshiba, 171 points from 60 conversions and 17
penalties)
(2007-8: Shotaro Onishi, inside centre, Yamaha, 119 points from 40
conversions and 13 penalties)
(2006-7: Keiji Hirose, five-eighth, Toyota, 148 pts from 47 conversions and 18
penalties)
(2005-6: Keiji Hirose, five-eighth, Toyota, 166 pts from 50 conversions and 22
penalties)
(2004-5: Keiji Hirose, five-eighth, Toyota, 137 pts from 49 conversions and 13
penalties)
(2003-4: Koji Fukuoka, fullback, World, 117 pts from 33 conversions and 17
penalties)

Yamaha fullback Ayumu Goromaru was the best goal kicker in Top League in the 2012-13 season with 155 points from 40 conversions and 25 penalties.

Best referee: Taizo Hirabayashi.

(2011-12: Taizo Hirabayashi)
(2010-11: Taizo Hirabayashi)
(2009-10: Shinji Aida)
(2008-9: Shinji Aida)
(2007-8: George Ayoub (ARU))
(2006-7: Taizo Hirabayashi)
(2005-6: Shinji Aida)

This category was introduced in the 2005-6 season with Taizo Hirabayashi taking out the title for the third season in a row and a record making fourth time.

Special Prize: This season, Suntory wing Hirotoki Onozawa became the first player to score one hundred Top League tries.

The Century Club: The 2012-13 season marked the tenth anniversary of Top League since it was launched back in 2003-4. Consequently, there are now an increasing number of players that have achieved the milestone of having played one hundred or more Top League games. Players to reach that milestone this season are:

Ryota Asano (NEC), Koichiro Kubota (NEC), Takashi Sato (Kobe), Yuji Matsubara (Kobe), Ippei Asada (Toyota), Takashi Kikutani (Toyota), Takashi Miyake (Panasonic), Ryuji Koga (Sanix), Tatsuhiko Otao (Yamaha) and Ryo Yamamura (Yamaha).

Fair play team: Sanix.

(2011-12: Toshiba)
(2010-11: Sanyo)
(2009-10: Coca-Cola)
(2008-9: Sanyo)
(2007-8: Kyuden)
(2006-7: Sanyo)
(2005-6: Kobe)
(2004-5: Kobe)
(2003-4: Suntory)

The fair play team is the team that gives away the least amount of penalties over the season. Sanix won this award for the first time this season.

Best fan service: Kobe.

(2011-12: Kobe)
(2010-11: Kobe)
(2009-10: Kobe)
(2008-9: Kobe)
(2007-8: Kobe)
(2006-7: Kobe and Yamaha)
(2005-6: Kobe and Yamaha)
(2004-5: Kobe)
(2003-4: Suntory)

HSBC Asian Five Nations 2013

Date

Team

Score

Team

Kick-off

Venue

Referee

Saturday 20 April 2013

Japan

-

Philippines

Level 5 Stadium, Fukuoka, Japan

Saturday 27 April 2013

Hong Kong

-

Japan

Hong Kong

Saturday 04 May 2013

Japan

-

Korea

Chichibu, Tokyo, Japan

Friday 10 May 2013

UAE

-

Japan

UAE

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post a Comment