Japan Rugby Top League 2020 Round Three Preview
|Sat, 25 Jan 2020||Mitsubishi Sagamihara||Panasonic||13:00||Sagamihara, Kanagawa|
|Honda||Toshiba||11:30||Mizuho Stadium, Aichi|
|Toyota||Hino||14:00||Mizuho Stadium, Aichi|
|Ricoh||Yamaha||13:00||Takebishi Stadium, Kyoto|
|Kubota||NTT Communications||13:00||Expo Stadium, Osaka|
|Sanix||NTT Docomo||13:00||Global Arena, Fukuoka|
|Sun, 26 Jan 2020||Canon||NEC||13:00||Yokohama, Kanagawa|
At the Sagamihara Gion Stadium in Kanagawa prefecture on Saturday, Mitsubishi Sagamihara Dynaboars host Panasonic Wild Knights. The Dynaboars are back in Top League after more than a ten-year absence, but they have started with a loss to NTT Docomo in the opening round and then a 23-15 loss to Canon in Tokyo last round. In contrast, Panasonic have had comfortable wins over Kubota and Toyota to sit on top of the table on the maximum of ten points. The Dynaboars may be playing in their hometown for this match, but it could be a long afternoon against the might of the Wild Knights.
In the first game of a double header at the Paloma Mizuho Stadium in Nagoya on Saturday afternoon, Honda Heat play Toshiba Brave Lupus. Honda started the season with a gutsy win over Ricoh in Osaka but then fell 23-21 to Kubota in Suzuka last Sunday. On the other hand, the Brave Lupus have had a stirring start with wins over Suntory in Tokyo and NTT Docomo in Osaka placing them near the top of the table. The Heat are a never-say-die side, but the momentum should be with Toshiba in this one.
In the second game at Mizuho, Toyota Verblitz host Hino Red Dolphins. After two rounds, the Verblitz sit unexpectedly in last place on the table after opening round losses to Yamaha and Panasonic. However, this Toyota side is simply too classy to stay in the basement for too long with Hino now in the crosshairs for their first win of the season. The Red Dolphins started with a loss to NTT Communications in Tokyo but made amends last week with a determined 27-17 win over NEC in Osaka. However, playing on home soil, Toyota have a lot to give back to their fans after two losses on the trot.
Ricoh Black Rams and Yamaha Jubilo travel to the ancient capital of Kyoto for this clash at the Takebishi Stadium Kyoto. The Black Rams had a shock loss to Honda in Osaka in week one before scrambling home 18-16 over Sanix in Fukuoka last Sunday. Ricoh are not yet firing on all cylinders, and this could be problematic against Yamaha. After two straight games at their Yamaha Stadium in Shizuoka, the Jubilo travel for the first time this season. In the opening round, they beat Toyota before falling 36-24 to Kobe last week.
At the Expo Stadium in Osaka on Saturday, Kubota Spears play NTT Communications Shining Arcs. Panasonic humbled the Spears in the first week, but they rebounded against Honda last round with a 23-21 win in Suzuka. On the other side of the field, the Shining Arcs started with a good 29-20 win over Hino before losing 22-10 to Suntory last Saturday. The difference between the two sides could come down to the playmakers with former Wallabies teammates Bernard Foley for Kubota and Christian Leali’ifano for NTT facing off against each other.
At the Global Arena in Fukuoka, Munakata Sanix Blues host NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes. Sanix beat NEC in their first game, and had a few things gone their way, they could have had a second win against Ricoh. As things went, though, the Blues were pipped 18-16 by the Black Rams. The Red Hurricanes also started with a win after they beat Mitsubishi Sagamihara in week one but lost 39-21 to Toshiba in Osaka last week. On paper, there is little to separate these two sides and so the result could come down to fine margins.
On Sunday, Canon Eagles and NEC Green Rockets go head to head at the Nippatsu Mitsuzawa Stadium in Yokohama. The Eagles started the new season with a heavy loss to reigning champions Kobe Steel but recovered to beat Mitsubishi Sagamihara 23-15 at Chichibu last Saturday. For the Green Rockets, however, it has been a horror start with losses to Sanix and Hino keeping them on the bottom of the table. The only way for NEC is up, but Canon will be looking to make it two wins in a row in Yokohama. The halves combination of Japan internationals Fumiaki Tanaka and Yu Tamura is at the heart of the Canon side this year and the NEC defence will have to mark them closely.
In the final game of round three, powerhouses Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers and Suntory Sungoliath clash at the Noevir Stadium Kobe in the undisputed match of the round. Reigning champions Kobe Steel have had big wins over Canon and Yamaha to pick up where they left off last season. Meanwhile, the Sungoliath had a surprise loss to archrivals Toshiba in their first game but beat NTT Communications 22-10 at Chichibu last Saturday. Although it is still early in the season, a win for the Steelers would put them in a good position to defend their Top League title.