In a game that highlighted the differences that exist between the “men” of company rugby and the “boys” of university rugby, Toyota beat Waseda University 77-12 at Chichibunomiya Stadium on Sunday to earn a place in the semifinals of the All-Japan Championship where it will play company champion Suntory.

Kubota, still recovering from its 104-12 drubbing at the hands of Suntory in the company semifinal, beat Kanto Gakuin University 85-35 in the day’s other game at Hanazono Stadium, Osaka, and will play Kobe Steel for a place in the final.

From the opening minutes it was clear that the students knew they could not compete physically with the “professional” players. Consequently they tried to spin the ball whenever they could and used their fullback to put the ball in at scrums in the hope that the scrumhalf could clear the ball as quickly as possible from a fast retreating pack.

“I was amazed to look up, after they had taken the line out option instead of the scrum, and see them running it back with seven of their forwards all lined up on the flank,” commented Toyota No. 8 Errol Brain after the game.

Despite their willingness to run it was obvious that Waseda would soon find themselves getting sucked in by the marauding Toyota pack, and so it proved.

In the ninth minute the students collapsed a maul and from the quick penalty that resulted Keiji Hirose threw a long miss pass to fullback Masafumi Sogabe who scored in the corner. Hirose added the extra two points, the first of eleven conversions for “Superboots” in a faultless display of goalkicking.

The flyhalf scored the second try himself, selling a great dummy to the Waseda defense before sprinting over from 30 meters out, and slotted home his third conversion of the day when Patiliai Tuidraki touched down after the Toyota pack had forced the Waseda scrum to turnover the ball in the 20th minute.

“Hirose is playing really well and doing a great job leading the team,” said Brain, whose outrageous through-the-legs pass to Tuidraki helped create a try for Lopeti Oto in the 27th minute.

Toyota added a further seven tries, the best being a mazy 40 meter run from Ryohei Miki who evaded six tackles on his way to the line, showing the form that has made him a regular in the Japan sevens team.

The students, however, never gave up and received the loudest cheers of the day when Satoshi Nakayama and Kikuomi Oe crossed for tries late in the second half, the latter showing an amazing turn of pace for a loosehead prop.

“It wasn’t the best preparation for next week and, to be honest, I don’t understand why we had to play the game,” said Toyota lock Richard Coventry.

“But it gave us a chance to work on our attacking options, though we will have to lift the intensity for the Suntory game. We have been bridesmaids for the past three years so it would be nice to pay Toyota back with a trophy,” added the New Zealander who returns home at the conclusion of the season having finished his three-year contract with the team.

Next year the format of the tournament will be changed again which should please the “professionals” but may upset the traditionalists.

As Tuidraki said “It’s hard to keep focused. The universities like to play attacking, running rugby but there is a huge difference in the levels.”

Next week’s match should be a different matter as Coventry and Brain, who takes over as forwards’ coach with the club next season, look to extend their playing career in Japan by one game.

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