Panasonic Wild Knights wrapped up the domestic rugby season by beating Teikyo University 49-15 to claim the 53rd All-Japan Championship at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground on Sunday.
The Wild Knights, who won their fourth Top League title last week, now have five cup wins to their name, as they finished the season unbeaten.
“It’s a great way to conclude the year for us,” said Panasonic coach Robbie Deans.
“It was a tough game of rugby and very fast, and I would like to acknowledge the effort of Teikyo University.”
With the domestic season shortened due to last year’s Rugby World Cup and the Sunwolves’ entry into Super Rugby, the All-Japan Championship reverted this year to its old format — a one-off game between the top corporate side and the top university.
But it was the same old story as the professionals were far too physical for the students.
It took Panasonic just 84 seconds to get on the scoreboard with Tomoki Kitagawa going over after the Wild Knights had regained their own kickoff and put together half-a-dozen phases.
Their second “no whistle” try came less than three minutes later as Kentaro Kodama finished off some good interplay between backs and forwards.
“We knew the start would be important,” said Teikyo coach Masayuki Iwade. “But we haven’t played a Top League side since (a preseason game in) the summer, while Panasonic have been playing that level every week. That was the difference between the two sides.”
Teikyo never gave up and Seiya Ozaki in particular did his growing reputation a lot of good with some strong running.
A penalty from another of Teikyo’s standout players, Rikiya Matsuda, in the 19th minute ensured it got on the scoreboard and was just reward for its effort.
But the half ended as it started with Akihito Yamada going over following a good counterattack. With Berrick Barnes adding the extras to all three tries, it was 21-3 at the break.
“Our boys were blowing quite a bit at halftime because of the speed of the game. Even when they were out of it they (Teikyo) kept on coming,” said Deans.
Keisuke Uchida increased the lead shortly after the break, and from there on in it was pretty much one-way traffic.
Yasuki Hayashi, Keita Inagaki and Tadasuke Nishihara all crossed the whitewash, while Barnes ended the day with a perfect seven conversions from as many attempts.
Kosuke Horikoshi and Koki Takeyama did barge and dive over, respectively, for five-pointers for Teikyo — bringing the biggest cheers of the day from the crowd of 12,721 — but there was never any doubt who would add to their collection of silverware.
“Teikyo showed today they are more than competitive at this level,” said Deans. “But to do that in one outing is easier than week-in, week-out when your depth is being tested.”
When asked if he would like this year’s format to remain in place, Deans said the players liked the “brevity of it.”
“But it’s an interesting conundrum. Giving a university side the chance to be national champion in one outing, I’m not sure. But the Japan Cup has so much history we need to keep it in the mix, perhaps under a new format that is being discussed.”