24 February 2015
Written by Ian Mcdonnell
RiJ predicted Toshiba and Panasonic to progress to the NC final, but was wrong on both counts. Yamaha won their way through to their first-ever Championship final when they beat Toshiba, while Suntory edged out Panasonic in a beauty.
Enjoy the read.
- The 52nd National Championship 2015: Semi-finals
- HSBC World Series Sevens:
- The Season Takes Shape
- 2015 Asia Rugby Championship
- 2015 World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup
- Japans Rugby World Cup 2015 Warm-up Tests
- 2015 Rugby World Cup, Pool B
The 52nd National Championship 2015
Date: Sunday, 22 February 2015
Yamaha Jubilo (Top League) 21 d
Toshiba Brave Lupus (Top League) 9
Venue: Kintetsu Hanazono Rugby Ground, Osaka
Referee: Akihisa Aso
In a dour but gripping first semi-final in the 52nd National Championship 2015, Yamaha Jubilo came out on top 21-9 over Toshiba Brave Lupus at the Kintetsu Hanazono Rugby Ground in Osaka on Sunday to play their way through to their first-ever Championship decider.
Yamaha had the lion’s share of possession over the opening quarter and had the TMO ruled in their favour, centre Masatoshi Miyazawa would have scored the first try in the semi in the eighth minute, but as it was, they were denied. Toshiba halfback Takahiro Ogawa turned things around with successful penalties in the seventeenth and twenty-fifth minutes edging the Brave Lupus out to a fragile 6-0 lead, but the Jubilo had their revenge when former All Black back rower Mose Tuiali’i touched down late in the half with fullback Ayumu Goromaru potting the conversion to give Yamaha a 7-6 lead. However, Ogawa closed out the half with his third penalty just before the hooter to give Toshiba a 9-7 lead at halftime.
A number of injuries in the backs and the absence of Frans Steyn meant Toshiba lacked penetration in attack as the second half progressed and with the set piece keenly contested neither side could exert an overall dominance. However, the turning point in the match came in the thirteenth minute when Goromaru broke a Steven Bates tackle to put lock Duke Krishnan into space and although the big Malaysian was brought down close to the line he managed to pop a pass off the ground for five-eighth Tatsuhiko Otao who ran in the try. Goromaru could not convert the try, but with their noses in front, Yamaha started to grind down Toshiba and play more expansively. Jubilo turned this pressure into points with Goromaru kicking three penalties over the final quarter as Yamaha went on to record their third win over Toshiba this season, but more importantly, it won them a place in the final. Yamaha lost to Panasonic in the Lixil Cup final a few weeks ago and now Jubilo have the chance to lift their first major trophy if they can beat Suntory in the final next Saturday.
In an on-field interview after the match, Jubilo Coach Katsuyuki Kiyomiya said, “It hasn’t really sunk in yet that we have made the final. We got things right with our set piece in the second half and this team has taken another one or two steps forward.”
Suntory Sungoliath (Top League Wildcard) 31 d Panasonic Wild Knights (Top League) 25
Venue: Kintetsu Hanazono Rugby Ground, Osaka
Referee: Shuhei Kubo
In the second semi-final, Suntory Sungoliath beat reigning national champions Panasonic Wild Knights 31-25 in one of the best games played this season.
Suntory failed to qualify for the Lixil Cup this season and had to earn their place in the Championship through the Wildcard Tournament but all the extra rugby has seen the Sungoliath play themselves into excellent form. On the other hand, Panasonic were missing inspirational club captain and hooker Shota Horie who is out with a neck injury, while halfback Fumiaki Tanaka and wing Akihito Yamada were off on Super Rugby duty and this seemed to tip the scales when it mattered.
Although Suntory have been up and down this season, it was vintage Sungoliath in Osaka as they kept the ball in hand and played at a frantic pace. The experience and big game nous of halves Fourie du Preez and Tusi Pisi got Suntory on the front foot early with the latter posting first point through a penalty in the eleventh minute. However, Panasonic five-eighth and Top League MVP Berrick Barnes was also up for the occasion as he helped put left wing Takamasa Sakai over for the first try in the twentieth minute. Barnes kicked the conversion to put the Wild Knights in front 7-3.
Suntory continued to dominate possession and territory and the relentless pressure on the Panasonic defence eventually had its effect when Pisi danced his way through a gap and grasping defence to post the first Suntory try in the thirty-third minute. The successful conversion gave Suntory a 13-7 lead, but Panasonic narrowed the difference to 13-12 by the break when Barnes dropped a kick pass into the waiting hands of flanker You Young Nam who scored the second Knights try.
Pisi and Barnes traded penalties over the third quarter as Suntory held onto a 19-18 lead heading into the final ten minutes of play. With the game on a knife’s edge, a number of crucial turnovers for Suntory put them on the offensive resulting in tries to replacements Shinnosuke Kakinaga and Kenta Tsukamoto that put the Sungoliath in the box seat. Panasonic had less than five minutes to overcome a 31-18 deficit and although halfback Keisuke Uchida scampered in for a late try, time ran out on the defending champions with Suntory deservedly winning 31-25.
In an on-field interview after the match, Suntory Coach Naoya Okubo said, “We knew this was going to be a tough match against Panasonic and we knew he had to attack. We also had the belief that we could stay with them until the end. We were very disappointed in not making the Top League play-offs and we want to make up for it by winning the final next week.”
HSBC Sevens World Series 2014-15
Round 6, Hong Kong Sevens
27-29 March 2015, Hong Kong Stadium, Hog Kong
In 2015, a total of 40 international teams across three competitions will mark 40 years of Sevens in Hong Kong. In addition to the HSBC Sevens World Series Core Team Competition for the 15 core teams and Belgium, the 12-team international series qualifier tournament and the 12-team Hong Kong Women’s Sevens competitions will take place.
Pool C Games for Japan
Day 1: Friday, 27 March 2015
Match 2 (18:32): France v Japan
Day 2: Saturday, 28 March 2015
Match xx (12:18): South Africa v Japan
Match xx (15:36): Argentina v Japan
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
The Season Takes Shape
The schedule for internationals for Japan over the spring and early summer has become a whole lot clearer with the announcement of fixtures for the Asian Rugby Championship 2015 and the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup 2015.
The Asian Five Nations (A5N) tournament has been reformatted as the Asian Rugby Championship with the top three sides from the Top Five tier in 2014 in Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea playing each other home and away. Over six consecutive Saturdays starting 18 April 2015, the top three sides in Asia will battle it out for bragging rights as the number one rugby side in the region. Japan won all seven A5N titles without ever tasting defeat and they will start as hot favourites to continue the trend.
South Korea will host Japan in Incheon on the opening weekend before the Koreans travel to play Hong Kong in Hong Kong the following Saturday. On Saturday 2 May, Japanese rugby fans get their first home test of the year when Japan play Hong Kong at Chichibu in Tokyo and then Eddie Jones’s side stays on home turf when they move to Fukuoka to take on South Korea at the Level Five Stadium in the fourth week of the series. South Korea are then at home to accommodate Hong Kong on 16 May in the penultimate round before Japan travel to play Hong Kong in Aberdeen in the final weekend of competition.
Further down the track, Japan, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga along with Canada and the USA will play out the Pacific Nations Cup 2015. This year, Samoa, Japan and Tonga are in Pool A and Fiji, USA and Canada are in Pool B with games played in a cross-pool format.
All but one test will be played in North America with the action kicking off on Saturday, 18 July 2015 when Fiji are at home Tonga at the ANZ Stadium in Suva. On the same day, Canada play Japan and the USA play Samoa in a double header at the Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California. Round two on Friday 24 July sees Canada play Tonga at the Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, British Columbia while further south, Fiji play Samoa and the USA play Japan in another double header at the Bonney Field in Sacramento. The third round of action amounts to a triple-header with all three games slated for the BMO Field in Toronto on Wednesday 29 July where the USA play Tonga, Japan face Fiji and Canada take on Samoa.
The tournament culminates on Monday 3 August at the Swangard Stadium when the teams play off for final placings with the third-placed teams in either pool playing off for fifth place, the second-placed teams playing for third and the top two sides playing for the title.
All six sides are involved in the Rugby World Cup later in the year with Samoa and the USA grouped with Japan in Pool A. Japan and Samoa won their respective conferences in 2014, but in 2015, there only be one winner with the competition expected to be fiercely contested.
Asian Rugby Championship 2015 Fixtures
18.04.2015: Japan v Korea in Seoul
24.04.2015: Korea v Hong Kong in Hong Kong
02.05.2015: Hong Kong v Japan in Tokyo
09.05.2015: Korea v Japan in Fukuoka
16.05.2015: Hong Kong v Korea in Seoul
23.05.2015: Japan v Hong Kong in Hong Kong
ARC Division 1
Teams: Philippines, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Kazakhstan
May 3-9 in Manila
ARC Division 2
Teams: Chinese Taipei, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Thailand
May 10-16 in Kuala Lumpur
ARC Division 3 South/Central
Teams: India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan
May 24-30 in Tashkent
ARC Division 3 West
Teams: Qatar, Lebanon, Iran, Jordan
May 15-18 in Lebanon
This is a non-World Rugby/World Cup Group.
ARC Division 3 East
Teams: Guam, Indonesia, China
June 7-13 in Jakarta
ARC Division 4
Teams: Laos, Cambodia, Brunei, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Macao, Nepal.
Date and venue TBD.
World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup 2015
Two Pools of 3 teams
Pool A-Samoa, Japan, Tonga
Pool B-Fiji, USA, Canada
Fiji v Tonga in Suva
Canada v Japan in San Jose
United States v Samoa in San Jose
Canada v Tonga in Vancouver
Fiji v Samoa in Sacramento
United Sates v Japan in Sacramento
United States v Tonga in Toronto
Fiji v Japan in Toronto
Canada v Samoa in Toronto
Place 5 v Place 6 in Vancouver
Place 3 v Place 4 in Vancouver
Place 1 v Place 2 in Vancouver-The Final
Rugby World Cup 2015, Warm-up Tests
Japan to play test against yet-to-be-determined opponent on Saturday 15 August 2015.
Japan will play two tests against Uruguay on Saturday 22 and Saturday 29 August 2015.
Japan will play Georgia in Gloucester on Saturday 05 September 2015.
2015 Rugby World Cup 2015, Pool B
19.09.2015: South Africa v Japan in Brighton
20.09.2015: Samoa v United States in Brighton
23.09.2015: Scotland v Japan in Gloucester
26.09.2015: South Africa v Samoa in Birmingham
27.09.2015: Scotland v United States in Leeds
03.10.2015: Samoa v Japan in Milton Keynes
03.10.2015: South Africa v Scotland in Newcastle
07.10.2015: South Africa v United States in London
10.10.2015: Samoa v Scotland in Newcastle
11.10.2015: United States v Japan in Gloucester