Teikyo University became just the second collegiate side to beat a Top League team in the All-Japan Championship as it beat NEC Green Rockets 31-25 at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground on Sunday.
Masayuki Iwade’s side — which won its sixth straight university title last month — adapted better to both the conditions and the officials to upset the professionals as it emulated the exploits of Waseda University, which beat Toyota Verblitz back in 2006.
“In the last five years we lost (to the Top League sides) because we were too passive,” said Iwade. “But today the students showed great mental strength and I knew we could get a positive result.”
While full credit should go to the students for the way they took the game to NEC, questions have to be asked of their opposition and of the officials.
Two of Teikyo’s three tries came about as the result of runners crossing in front of the Green Rockets’ defensive line, while many of the NEC players looked like they wanted to be elsewhere.
Japan flyhalf Yu Tamura seemed frustrated from the kickoff and was involved in a couple of niggly incidents, while Nemani Nadolo’s clean shirt — on a day that much of the field resembled a bog — showed how underused the big Fiji wing was.
“Whatever I say, the result is not going to change. We were beaten and Teikyo won,” said NEC captain Sunao Takizawa.
Seiya Ozaki crossed for the decisive try in the 75th minute, while Rikiya Matsuda finished the day with a try, two conversions and four penalty goals as Teikyo, for whom Shun Kawaguchi also touched down, made the most of all the opportunities that came its way, and gave those that support the current format of the season-ending competition something to cheer about.
However, this was always going to be the only game in which an upset was possible, given Teikyo’s absolute dominance over all other student sides this season and the fact that NEC at 10th was the lowest ranked Top League side in the competition, having earned its spot via a wild-card tournament.
Elsewhere, normal service was resumed with Suntory Sungoliath smashing University of Tsukuba 62-7, Kobe Kobelco Steelers hammering Keio University 76-7 and Toshiba Brave Lupus downing Tokai University 59-12.
Teikyo will play Toshiba for a spot in the final four, while Suntory will take on Kobe, with Top League champions Panasonic Wild Knights awaiting the victors of the latter tie in the semifinals and runnersup Yamaha Jubilo playing the winners of the former.