JAPANESE RUGBY PLAYERS IMPRESSIVE DURING FIRST TOUR OVERSEAS DURING 1925-26 NEW YEAR HOLIDAY

Keio was the first Japanese team to play overseas and at the time they arrived in Shanghai they still had never lost a rugby match to a Japanese team in Japan.

Keio played two matches on the tour – December 26 1925 against Shanghai on and the other against Hong Kong on December 30. Newspaper reports show clearly that the Japanese style of rugby was immediately rated highly by both Keio’s opponents and the spectators.

Keio very narrowly lost the match against Shanghai 12- 13 despite scoring more tries. The North China Herald’s article on the match contained the following:
‘… the ground gradually filled to capacity and the 1,500 or so people who assembled to watch the match were rewarded by the finest and most exciting game of Rugby that has ever been played in Shanghai. Thrill followed thrill in quick succession, and such were the varying fortunes of the sides as first one and then the other led in the scoring that either side might easily run out winners. In addition the match was fought out according to the very best traditions …. it was clean, too, in a game which there would have been a certain amount of excuse for players losing their heads. …. A draw would have been a fitting result to such a closely-contested match, and while congratulating the Keio University on the splendid game they put up, we must also commiserate with them on losing it in the last minutes after holding the lead from half-time. They play Rugger as it should be played ….The loser’s seven forwards showed us scientific packing as we have never seen it out here. They were also very good in the loose and surprisingly so out of touch, considering their height. ………….Had their place- kicking been up to the standard of the rest of their play the result would have been different. ‘

Keio won their second game, against Hong Kong, 8-3, notching up the first ever win for a Japanese team overseas. According to the brief newspaper report: “In one or two respects this was the most interesting match that has been seen. The Hong Kong team noted how well Keio packed against the Shanghai forwards and got the ball; they adapted themselves to the conditions under which they saw they would have to play; “ and called the match ‘The very interesting and hard fought game. The Keio players clearly surprised the larger Shanghai and Hong Kong players and especially the words ‘scientific packing as we have never seen it out here’ indicated Japanese rugby were not simply copying western methods of playing the game.

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