Tuesday, March 17, 2015


17 February 2015

Written by Ian Mcdonnell
Contact ianmcdo@apost.plala.or.jp

RiJ covers another big week in rugby with Kubota, Coca-Cola and Toyota Industries retaining their places in TL for next season after winning their respective play-offs on Saturday, while on Sunday, Suntory beat Kobe and Toshiba beat Teikyo University in the second round of the NC. Meanwhile, over in Las Vagas, the Japan Sevens suffered five straight losses for the second week in a row and with five of nine rounds played in the HSBC SWS, Japan are at the bottom of the core team standings and staring down the barrel of relegation.

Enjoy the read.


  • Top League 2014-15: Final Promotion Relegation Play offs
  • HSBC World Series Sevens: Round 5 USA
  • The 52nd National Championship 2015
  • HSBC World Series Sevens: Coming up

Top League

Top League Promotion and Relegation Play-offs 2014-15

Kubota, Coca-Cola and Toyota Industries Retain Their Places in TL

At the completion of the Group stages of the 2014-15 Japan Rugby Top League competition, Munakata Sanix Blues as the team that finished last in Group B, that is, sixteenth overall was automatically relegated. The teams that finished thirteenth (Kubota), fourteenth (Coca-Cola) and fifteenth (Toyota Industries) overall played through the promotion and relegation play-offs to retain their places in Top League for the 2015-16 season.

In Top Challenge One, the three sides that finished in first position in the three regional leagues, that is, Mitsubishi Dynaboars (Top East), Honda Heat (Top West), Kyuden Voltex (Top Kyushu) together with Kamaishi Seawaves as the winner of Top Challenge Two played each other once. Honda as the top team gained automatic promotion to Top League for the 2015-16 season.

Furthermore, the teams that finished second (Mitsubishi), third (Kyuden) and fourth (Kamaishi) in Top Challenge One had a second bite of the cherry in one-off promotion and relegation play-offs with the team that finishes thirteenth (Kubota), fourteenth (Coca-Cola) and fifteenth (Toyota Industries) overall in Top League.

Kubota Spears (Top League 13) 34 d
Kamaishi Seawaves
(Top Challenge 4) 5

Date: Saturday, 14 February 2015
Venue: Kumagaya Rugby Park, Saitama
Kick-off: 13:00

Kubota Spears ended any thoughts Kamaishi Seawaves had of winning promotion to Top League for the first time with a 34-5 win at the Kumagaya Rugby Park in Saitama on Saturday 14 February 2015. Kubota centre Harumichi Tatekawa got the scoreboard ticking over with an early penalty and this was soon followed by a try to flanker Phillip Finau as the Spears stamped their authority on the game. However, Kamaishi came back with fullback Kunimitsu Numata narrowing the difference to 8-5 only for lock and captain Tatsuro Konno to score a late try for Kubota who took a 13-5 lead into the halftime break. Tatekawa knocked over three more penalties early in the second half as Kubota gradually pulled away on the scoreboard. Tries to South African back rower Keegan Daniel and veteran wing Takashi Suzuki then completed the scoring for the Spears who ran out comfortable 34-5 winners at the end of proceedings.

Coca-Cola Red Sparks (Top League 14) 53 d Kyuden Voltex (Top Challenge 3) 8

Date: Saturday, 14 February 2015
Venue: Level Five Stadium, Fukuoka
Kick-off: 13:00

Coca-Cola confirmed their place in Top League for next season with an emphatic 53-8 win over Kyuden at the Level Five Stadium in Fukuoka on Saturday 14 February 2015. Kyuden got on the board first with a penalty to Yusuke Aramaki, but Coca-Cola responded with tries to fullback Taichi Yoshizawa, No8 Jimmy Maher and flanker Solomon King to lead 17-3 by the half-hour mark. Voltex closed out the opening half with a try to fullback Makoto Kato, but the Red Sparks led their Fukuoka neighbours 17-8 at the break. Coca-Cola ran away with the second half with six unanswered tries with Maher bringing up a hat trick of tries while replacement centre Tim Bateman and lock and captain Masakazu Toyota also got their names on the scoresheet. Kyuden could not stay with their Kyushu rivals in the latter half and now will have to contend themselves with another season in the Top Kyushu league next year.

Toyota Industries Shuttles (Top League 15) 53 d Mitsubishi Sagamihara Dynaboars (Top Chall. 2) 7

Date: Saturday, 14 February 2015
Venue: Mizuho Rugby Park, Nagoya
Kick-off: 13:00

The Toyota Industries Shuttles made sure they would be playing in Top League in 2015-16 with a dominant 53-7 win over Mitsubishi Sagamihara Dynaboars at the Mizuho Rugby Park in Nagoya on Saturday 14 February 2015. The Shuttles dominated the opening half with wing Hiroki Oi scoring two tries while veteran centre Shotaro Onishi kicked both conversions and a penalty to open up a 17-0 lead. Centre Siupeli Lokotui scored a late try for Mitsubishi with the successful conversion from playmaker Stephen Donald closing the gap to 17-7 by halftime. The Shuttles took a stranglehold on the second half, piling on five more tries as they completely overpowered their challenger. Oi scored a double for the match and South African Ryan Kankowski also wrote his name into the record books.

Japan Rugby Top League Teams for Season 2015-16

(Confirmed 14 February 2015)

The 2015-16 season will be the thirteenth year of Japan Rugby Top League. The teams to compete in Japan Rugby Top League 2015-16 are listed in the following table with the number in brackets indicating the number of seasons that particular team has participated in Top League, including the 2015-16 season. 


Panasonic Wild Knights (13)


Yamaha Jubilo (13)


Toshiba Brave Lupus (13)


Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers (13)


Suntory Sungoliath (13)


Toyota Verblitz (12)


Canon Eagles (4)


NTT Communications Shining Arcs (6)


Ricoh Black Rams (12)


NEC Green Rockets (13)


NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes (5)


Kintetsu Liners (10)


Kubota Spears (11)


Coca-Cola Red Sparks (9)


Toyota Industries Shuttles (4)


Honda Heat (3)

Munakata Sanix Blues were automatically relegated at the completion of the 2014-15 season after finishing last in Group B, that is, 16th overall.

Honda Heat won promotion through the Top Challenge series.

Kubota Spears, Coca-Cola Red Sparks and Toyota Industries Shuttles retained their places in Top League when they won their respective promotion and relegation play-offs.


HSBC Sevens World Series 2014-15

Round 5, USA Sevens

13-15 February 2015, Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vagas

Fiji took their first USA Sevens Cup title since 2007 when they defeated New Zealand 35-19 in the Cup Final while South Africa came in third after they beat host USA 31-0 in the Third Place Play-off. Other winners in Las Vagas included Australia who beat England 21-14 in the Plate Final, Kenya who beat Argentina 24-21 in the Bowl Final and Portugal who beat Wales 19-12 in the Shield Final. For Japan though, it was another disappointing tournament with three straight losses in Pool C followed by further losses to Argentina in Bowl Quarter Final and Wales in the Shield Semi Final. After five of nine rounds, Japan are the lowest ranked side of the fifteen core teams on 5 points, well behind fourteenth-placed Portugal on 21 points. South Africa head the overall standings with 93 points from New Zealand on 88 points and Fiji on 86 points.

2015 Fiji Winners in USA

Fiji take the Cup in Las Vagas. (Source: Official HSBC Sevens World Series webpage)

After round 4 in New Zealand, Yoshiaki Tsurugasaki (Panasonic) and Kazushi Hano (NTT Communications) were ruled out of the USA Sevens due to injury while Yusaku Kuwazuru is required to play for his club side Coca-Cola in the their Top League promotion and relegation match against Kyuden. In their place, Teruya Goto (NEC), Kin Sho-Kei (NTT Communications) and Daniel Heenan (Panasonic) have been called into the squad for the USA Sevens.


Pool A

Pool B

Pool C

Pool D

New Zealand


South Africa














Pool C Games for Japan

Day 1: Friday, 13 February 2015

Match 2 (16:22): USA 52 d Japan 12

Japan: 3- Hiroki Yoshida, 6- Masakatsu Hikosaka, 2- Shunya Goto, 8- Yoshikazu Fujita, 1- Lomano Lemeki, 7- Katsuyuki Sakai (c), 11- Chihito Matsui.

Substitutes: 12- Kazuhiro Goya, 9- Daisuke Natsui, 5- Kin Sho-Kei, 10- Teruya Goto, 4- Daniel Heenan.

Japan Scorers: Tries: Lomano Lemeki and Chihito Matsui; Conversion: Katsuyuki Sakai.

Mike Friday’s USA overwhelmed Japan in their opening Pool A match at the Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vagas on Friday winning 52-12 in what was their biggest win ever over the Japanese. Lomano Lemeki and Chihito Matsui were the try scorers for Japan but the USA responded with eight tries to run away with the match. The Eagles led 26-0 at halftime and worse was to come in the latter half for the Japanese with the tournament hosts running in a further four tries to blow out the final score line. Carlin Isles scored two tries for the Americans while Danny Barrett and Zach Test playing in his 50th series tournament were some of the other try scorers for the victors.

Match 9 (18:56): South Africa 42 d Japan 5

Japan: 6- Masakatsu Hikosaka, 9- Daisuke Natsui, 5- Kin Sho-Kei, 8- Yoshikazu Fujita, 12- Kazuhiro Goya, 1- Lomano Lemeki, 11- Chihito Matsui.

Substitutes: 3- Hiroki Yoshida, 7- Katsuyuki Sakai (c), 2- Shunya Goto, 10- Teruya Goto, 4- Daniel Heenan.

Japan Scorers: Try: Lomano Lemeki.

In their second match, Japan came up against the might of South Africa. The South Africans ran in four converted tries in the first half to build a commanding 28-0 lead at the turn around and then wrapped things up with two more tries after the break. Seabelo Senatla touched down twice for the Springboks while Cecil Afrika and Philip Snyman were some of the other try scorers.  Like in the opening match against the USA, Lomano Lemeki scored for Japan as his side suffered a second heavy loss in a row. The South Africans are now looking at claiming their third consecutive title in America.

Day 2: Saturday, 14 February 2015

Match 17 (11:08): Portugal 21 d Japan 19

Japan: 6- Masakatsu Hikosaka, 2- Shunya Goto, 4- Daniel Heenan, 3- Hiroki Yoshida, 8- Yoshikazu Fujita, 12- Kazuhiro Goya, 1- Lomano Lemeki.

Substitutes: 9- Daisuke Natsui, 7- Katsuyuki Sakai (c), 11- Chihito Matsui, 5- Kin Sho-Kei, 10- Teruya Goto.

Japan Scorers: Tries: Lomano Lemeki 3; Conversions: Kazuhiro Goya and Katsuyuki Sakai.

In their third match, Japan came agonisingly close to their first win in Las Vagas, eventually losing 21-19 to Portugal. The Japanese were slow to start, allowing the Portuguese to jump out to a 14-0 lead inside the first five minutes of play and from that point on, it was catch-up rugby. However, the risk paid off with a double to Lomano Lemeki closing the gap to 14-12 at halftime. Daniel Heenan was sinbinned early in the second half and this gave Portugal momentum with Aderito Tiny Gloria Esteves running in their third try with the conversion making it 21-12. Lemeki brought up his hat trick late in the match with his captain Katsuyuki Sakai making it a two-point game with the conversion, but time beat the Japanese in the end leaving them at the bottom of their pool.

Knockout results for Japan

Match 28: Bowl Quarter Final, Argentina 15 d Japan 12

Japan: 6- Masakatsu Hikosaka, 2- Shunya Goto, 4- Daniel Heenan, 3- Hiroki Yoshida, 8- Yoshikazu Fujita, 12- Kazuhiro Goya, 1- Lomano Lemeki.

Substitutes: 9- Daisuke Natsui, 7- Katsuyuki Sakai (c), 11- Chihito Matsui, 5- Kin Sho-Kei, 10- Teruya Goto.

Japan Scorers: Tries: Yoshikazu Fujita and Shunya Goto; Conversion: Kazuhiro Goya.

The three losses Japan experienced in Pool C put the Japanese into the Bowl Quarter Finals at the Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vagas on Saturday where they faced Argentina. The Puma Sevens scraped across the line in the end when Gaston Revol booted a late penalty to break a 12-all deadlock and give the South Americans a 15-12 win. The scores were tied at 7-all at halftime before German Schultz for Argentina and then Shunya Goto crossed for second half tries to once more even up the score line at 12-all. Katsuyuki Sakai had the chance to put Japan in front with the conversion, but he missed leaving the game locked up. Then, Revol stepped up to the mark and kicked the penalty that dashed any remaining Japanese hopes.

 USA 7evens
(Source: Official HSBC Sevens World Series webpage)

Day 3: Sunday, 15 February 2015

Match 34: Shield Semi Final, Wales 47 d Japan 33

Japan: 6- Masakatsu Hikosaka, 2- Shunya Goto, 4- Daniel Heenan, 3- Hiroki Yoshida, 8- Yoshikazu Fujita, 12- Kazuhiro Goya, 1- Lomano Lemeki.

Substitutes: 9- Daisuke Natsui, 7- Katsuyuki Sakai (c), 11- Chihito Matsui, 5- Kin Sho-Kei, 10- Teruya Goto.

Japan Scorers: Tries: Lomano Lemeki 2, Yoshikazu Fujita, Masakatsu Hikosaka, Katsuyuki Sakai; Conversions: Katsuyuki Sakai 2, Lomano Lemeki, Kazuhiro Goya.

The loss to Argentina in the Bowl Quarter Finals put Japan into the Shield Semi Finals where they faced Wales. In a fast and furious match in which 12 tries were scored in 14 minutes of rugby, Wales eventually came out on top 47-33. Another poor start from the Japanese allowed Wales to punch put to a 28-7 lead at halftime, which then became 40-7 midway through the second period of play. Japan then scampered in for four tries to make it 42-33, but Wales closed out the result with a late try. Lomano Lemeki scored twice for Japan, while Yoshikazu Fujita, Masakatsu Hikosaka and Katsuyuki Sakai also recorded five pointers.

The 52nd National Championship 2015

Round Two

Date: Sunday, 15 February 2015

Suntory Sungoliath (Top League Wildcard) 22 d Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers (Top League) 10

Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground, Tokyo
Kick-off: 11:45
Referee: Takashi Harada
Attendance: 11, 379

Suntory Sungoliath beat Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers 22-10 at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo on Sunday to progress to the semi-finals of the 52nd National Championship 2015.

The Steelers beat the Sungoliath on two occasions earlier in the season, but there was to be no third time as Suntory gradually got on top in the second half to keep their hopes alive of yet another national crown. The Suntory halves of Fourie du Preez and Tusi Pisi combined to post first points in the encounter when the former scored the opening try in the third minute and the latter added the extras. However, Kobe quickly responded with No8 Matt Vant Leven crossing the Suntory whitewash in the sixth minute. Centre Daisuke Yamamoto could not kick the conversion, but the Steelers hit the lead in the twenty-fifth minute when five-eighth Ryohei Yamamoto crossed for the second Kobe try. Once again, Yamamoto failed to add the extra points, but the Steelers were out to a confidence building 10-7 lead. Pisi landed a penalty late in the half to take the sides to the break with the scores locked at 10-all, leaving everything to play for in the second half.

Suntory got on the board first in the second half when flanker Hendrik Tui dotted down in the fourth minute, pushing his side back into the lead 15-10. The turning point in the game came in the twenty-seventh minute when replacement prop Shinnosuke Kakinaga crossed for the third Suntory try with the successful Pisi conversion extending the lead to 22-10. Although there was, still enough time on the clock, Kobe could not get the points they needed and as time ticked down to fulltime neither side could add to their score and Suntory collected the win. Suntory now face Panasonic next week for a place in the final.

Toshiba Brave Lupus (Top League) 38 d
Teikyo University (University champion) 24

Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground, Tokyo
Kick-off: 14:05
Referee: Tatsuya Matsuoka
Attendance: 14,196

In the second game in round two, Toshiba Brave Lupus beat Teikyo University 38-24. Toshiba scored six tries to four and despite the score line; the Brave Lupus always had the upper hand.

The Brave Lupus were first to put their name on the scoreboard when nifty halfback Takahiro Ogawa did it all himself with an early try and conversion to open up a 7-0 lead. The lead then became 14-0 when centre Richard Kahui crossed in the eighteenth minute with Ogawa on hand to secure the conversion. Left wing Shuhei Oshima went in for the third Toshiba try in the twenty-fifth minute with Ogawa kicking on for a 21-0 lead making the task of the students all that much more difficult. Replacement centre Daisuke Hamano finally got Teikyo on the board with a late try as they trailed the Brave Lupus 21-5 at the break.

Soon after the resumption of play, Oshima scored his second try of the afternoon and although Ogawa failed to kick the conversion, the 26-5 lead put Toshiba in the box seat. Further tries to right wing Shin Ito and Kahui added to the Toshiba score line even though tries to wings Seiya Ozaki and Yasunari Isoda kept the points coming for Teikyo. Heading into the final ten minutes of play, Toshiba enjoyed a 38-17 lead and were comfortably on their way to a semi-final showdown with Yamaha next Sunday. Isoda crossed for a second five pointer late in proceedings to make the final score line 38-24, but at the end of the day, Toshiba were too good for the university champions.

HSBC Sevens World Series

Round 6, Hong Kong Sevens
27-29 March 2015, Hong Kong Stadium, Hog Kong

Round 7, Japan Sevens
4-5 April 2015, Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground, Tokyo

Round 8, Scotland Sevens
9-10 May 2015, Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow

Round 9, England Sevens
16-17 May 2015, Twickenham Stadium, London


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