The YC&AC rugby team has recently finished its third season in the East Japan Top Club League, finishing a respectable seventh (out of nine teams).
The East Japan Top Club League, as the name would imply, comprises the best nine club teams, out of a total of 299, in the top half of Japan. In theory, this league is for the top amateur (as opposed to corporate or university) rugby teams in East Japan but in practice the lines are blurred somewhat – the Hokkaido Barbarians are arguably a semi-professional team, the RKU Dragons are a university team and the Taisei Reds team are all employees of Taisei Housing. Most of the teams are based in the greater Tokyo area but the Hokkaido Barbarians (who are based just out of Sapporo) and the Kitagami Blaze Rugger (from Iwate) provide some geographical diversity.
YC&AC started their campaign with a trip up to Sapporo at the end of August for a match against the Hokkaido Barbarians. This was always going to be a tough game (the Hokkaido Barbarians are always one of the two top teams) and only managing to get the bare minimum of fifteen people to make the trip didn’t help matters! The subsequent result doesn’t need to be discussed (although is recorded for posterity below) but for the brave souls who made the trip (known as the ‘Hokkaido XV’) the weekend still ended up being a lot of fun with beautiful weather, great facilities for the match, a BBQ straight after and then an excellent night out in Sapporo followed by an early afternoon flight back to Tokyo (all heavily subsidized).
Next up was a disappointing loss to the Sharks in late September. With 10 minutes to go we were only down by one try but unfortunately it was the Sharks who finished the stronger. Following this was another disappointment when a lack of available front rowers for the next match meant that unfortunately we had to default to Tamariva – if anyone knows any big, tough men who are bored with just sitting around the house being big and tough on the weekends we would be grateful if you could direct them towards the YC&AC rugby team!
The following match against the (amusingly named) Komaba Watermelon Men (WMM for short), despite being another loss, proved to be the turning point of our season. The Komaba WMM inevitably finish amongst the top three or four teams (which they did again this season) but we seem to be their ‘bogey’ team – for two years in a row their wins against us have been much narrower than their results against the other teams of a similar level to us. With the YC&AC tackling their hearts outs, Komaba were restricted to five tries (despite a wealth of territory and possession) and YC&AC managed four tries in return (gaining our first competition point as a result).
Our first competition win of the season (largely due to a very strong finish) followed a couple of weeks later against the Kitagami Blaze Rugger and then the YC&AC team achieved the highlight of the its season the following week by beating the Taisei Reds 18 – 17 in a match which was every bit as tense as the scoreline suggests. Unfortunately the momentum was broken by a big loss to the students from RKU a few weeks later and the season finished with a narrow loss to Mandara in mid-December in a match where the YC&AC team again defended bravely but just couldn’t break out of their own half.
For a club used to winning almost every match they play, the outcome of our East Japan Top Club League season does take some getting used to. However, as a comparison, during the competition season we also had ‘friendly’ games against the Tokyo Crusaders (which we won 61 – 22, retaining the GM Cup for the seventh season in a row) and Koyama (which we won by something like a hundred points). The outcome of these ‘friendly’ games, which were better than average scores against teams we have played annually for years on end, indicate that our Top Club League results are due to the much higher level of competition in this league rather than any particular drop-off in the level of the YC&AC team.
In terms of personal contributions, vice-captain Ben Patu enjoyed an excellent season. Ben played every match (mainly at No. 12), won multiple MVP awards and was the team’s top points scorer. Arts Tawhai (No. 8 or No. 13) was another recipient of multiple MVPs and also enjoyed a fine season. Our front-rowers Dai Okada, Nike Yoshio, Shunsuke Watanabe and Galdric Porta can be proud that they held their own against every opposition and young flanker Mike Mulipola was a great new addition to the team, as was fly-half Daisuke Obiya. As always, Simon Ryan did a ton of work behind the scenes – the club is eternally (and irrevocably) in his debt.
Finally, many thanks to Adrian Bell of Tradition and Steve ‘The Vicar’ Lewis for their continued and generous support of the YC&AC rugby club.
Hokkaido Barbarians Lost 129 – 0
Sharks Lost 41 – 21
Tamariva Lost (Default)
Komaba WMM Lost 36 – 22
Kitagami Blaze Rugger Won 40 – 27
Taisei Reds Won 18 – 17
RKU Dragons Lost 76 – 3
Mandara Lost 17 -10
Final points table: