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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The Ups & Downs of Japan’s Title Deciding Rugby Play-Off Ultimate

On the finish of a protracted league season, it’s my opinion that the group ending prime needs to be topped as champions. Nevertheless, some sports activities like rugby have some money-spinning play-off matches to determine who the champions are. Because the flip of the century, my residence nation England has used this technique in barely completely different types to finish the season which as a rule has seen the group that gained the common season dropping out within the Play Offs. Would the identical occur in Japan?

Cup closing day on the Nationwide Stadium

The Rugby League One Championship Play-Off Ultimate was contested between the highest two sides at Japan Nationwide Stadium on a sunny afternoon final Sunday. Saitama Wild Knights completed on prime of the common season with a 100% win document. Toshiba Courageous Lupus completed second having misplaced simply as soon as, and that was after all in opposition to Wild Knights.

There was some form of Rugby Festa happening over the highway from the stadium pre-match with the vast majority of Japanese golf equipment from the highest three leagues collaborating. That they had stalls promoting merchandise with a few gamers available from most groups posing for pictures and signing items. I didn’t recognise any of the gamers current although so didn’t simply get an image after which work out who they had been as is the case with a lot of the general public as of late!

Simply earlier than 2:00 pm I needed to make my means over to the stadium to satisfy a few buddies however there was sufficient time to go and see the large rugby ball which was a well-liked photograph spot outdoors the principle stand.

My companions in crime for this match had been Owen and Nick. I hadn’t seen the previous for five.5 years so it was actually nice to meet up with him and speak about rugby which most of our mutual buddies have no real interest in!

10,000 tickets got away for this sport (we did not win any!) so I’m certain there have been many rugby novices within the stadium. The sport continues to be pretty new to the vast majority of the inhabitants but it surely has been rising in reputation over the previous couple of Rugby World Cups, particularly the center one in 2019 which was really held in Japan. One particular person everybody appears to know although is the enduring former Courageous Blossoms captain Michael Leitch.

“Leeeeeeiiiitch” – Courageous Lupus followers chanted this everytime he had the ball

Flames and a cloud of smoke greeted the groups once they got here out of the tunnel round 3:00 pm. The group rose for the Japanese nationwide anthem and with the pre-match pomp and ceremony out of the best way it was lastly time for kick off. A ten second countdown appears to be frequent place as of late and I do know there’s loads of anticipation at this stage but it surely’s not likely the large occasion it’s being made out to be.


This was really my first time to see Saitama Wild Knights and so they attacked for a lot of the opening 20 minutes however Courageous Lupus had been resolute and by some means stopped a few tries being scored and stored the rating to only 6-0.

On 26 minutes they acquired on the scoresheet with a attempt that proved to be very controversial as replays confirmed it to be simply wanting the road however the referee didn’t even ask the tv match official (TMO) to test it. The truth that there aren’t any replays of it in any respect within the highlights video on the foot of this web page says rather a lot!


Courageous Lupus prolonged their lead with an early attempt within the second half which was the one one with none debate to its legality.


With 18 minutes remaining, Courageous Lupus led 17-6 however then the sport turned on its head with two fast transformed tries for Wild Knights, and it was time for the Tokyo group to regroup and get going once more when it appeared like they’d it within the bag. They did so with a attempt which appeared with the bare eye that it was certain to be dominated out as a participant had seemingly grounded his foot over the sideline. To everybody’s shock although the TMO confirmed he had launched the ball in mid-air simply earlier than his foot went out of play. The attempt was awarded however there was nonetheless time for yet another twist within the tail.

Wild Knights hit again and went by 16 phases of play earlier than scoring an exquisite attempt however the TMO replays clearly confirmed the ball had gone ahead in an earlier part and the attempt was dominated out. Massive aid and disappointment for the respective groups, though they did have time to get used to what was coming because the referee and his assistants appeared to take an age to make choices on this match which had been fairly clear after a replay or two.

Ultimate Rating: Toshiba Courageous Lupus Tokyo 24-20 Saitama Wild Knights

Owen and Nick departed simply after the ultimate whistle however I made a decision to remain round for the trophy presentation and lap of honour. There have been some interviews afterwards which included the with profitable captain Michael Leitch and the dreadlocked Shota Horie; the enduring Japanese nationwide who had simply introduced the curtain down on his profession. It sadly wasn’t the fairytale ending for him however his speech was delivered with humility and humour.


After that I headed on all the way down to the entrance hoping to get some shut up pictures of the victorious gamers as they did their lap of honour. A voice got here then got here from behind me saying my stage title. It was a “twitter tomodachi (good friend)” to make use of his phrases! I’ve been speaking a good bit over time with Mark who works over right here as a contract sports activities journalist and broadcaster. Earlier makes an attempt to satisfy up (together with earlier than this match itself) had failed so it was good to lastly chat with one another in particular person.

The voice of wrestling meets me!

The victorious gamers lastly made their means spherical to our stand and it was nice to see them so shut up, particularly when lifting the massive trophy aloft.

This was Toshiba Courageous Lupus’ first league title triumph in 14 years and the gamers, inlcuding All-Blacks fly-half Richie Mo’Unga, couldn’t conceal their aid and delight.

After all everybody is aware of the foundations beforehand and the entire spectacle of the play-offs in lots of sports activities, particularly as a impartial, can present unbelievable pleasure. It actually does preserve the season alive for each followers and groups who’ve one thing to play for within the latter phases of the season. Cash performs an enormous half too and it does present a fantastic useful resource of income for some golf equipment. As a lot as I cherished my day at this rugby closing you may’t assist however really feel sorry for Wild Knights to have had such a tremendous season however then lose the title to a group who completed beneath them within the league stage. Deciding promotion locations this manner could also be okay however I’m nonetheless not a fan of the champions being decided in such vogue.

Bonus: That closing was my fifth match of the yr which is a document for me as Friday evening rugby at Chichibunomiya has grow to be one thing of a semi-regular occasion. My first few matches had been lined in a put up that includes former Leicester Tigers and England legend Freddie Burns. After that I acquired to see one other Englishman known as Sam Jeffries play for Tokyo Sungoliath in what was a uncommon tied match.

Click on right here to learn ‘I Met An England Rugby Union Legend’

Click on right here to learn ‘We Watched Japan Play An Worldwide Rugby Match Final Weekend!’

Click on right here to learn ‘I Watched 15 Sports activities In Japan For The First Time In 2023’

Click on right here to learn ‘Rugby World Cup Fever Grips Japan For Six Memorable Weeks Of Motion’

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