Japan Rugby Top League 2020 Round 4 Preview
|Sat, 01 Feb 2020||Mitsubishi Sagamihara||Toshiba||13:00||Yokohama, Kanagawa|
|Hino||Yamaha||11:30||Mizuho Stadium, Aichi|
|Toyota||Honda||14:00||Mizuho Stadium, Aichi|
|Suntory||NEC||13:00||Expo Stadium, Osaka|
|Sun, 02 Feb 2020||Canon||Panasonic||13:00||Machida, Tokyo|
|Ricoh||NTT Communications||13:00||Yokohama, Kanagawa|
|Kobe||NTT Docomo||13:00||Kobe, Hyogo|
To open round four, Mitsubishi Sagamihara Dynaboars and Toshiba Brave Lupus go head to head at the Nippatsu Mitsuzawa Stadium in Yokohama. The Dynaboars have started the season with losses to NTT Docomo, Canon and Panasonic and now face the might of unbeaten Toshiba. The Brave Lupus have had a superb start with wins over Suntory, NTT Docomo and Honda placing them near the top of the table. If the form of these two sides is any indication, the Brave Lupus should sail home with a win. Nevertheless, the Dynaboars can be expected to put up stiff resistance, but the final quarter of the match is crucial.
In the first game of a double header at the Paloma Mizuho Stadium in Nagoya on Saturday afternoon, Hino Red Dolphins play Yamaha Jubilo. The Red Dolphins started with a loss to NTT Communications, beat NEC and then lost 61-31 to Toyota on this ground last week. On the other hand, the Jubilo beat Toyota in the opening round, fell to Kobe and then beat Ricoh 38-0 in Kyoto last round. Yamaha should have too much firepower for Hino, but the Red Dolphins will go down fighting especially with number eight and captain Kosuke Horie playing against his old club.
In the second game at Mizuho, Toyota Verblitz host Honda Heat. The Verblitz started with losses to Yamaha and Panasonic but outclassed Hino 61-31 at this venue last week to start their climb up the table. Honda started the season with a gutsy win over Ricoh, fell to Kubota before suffering a 32-23 loss to Toshiba in the early game at this ground last Saturday. The big names stood up for Toyota last week with wing Jamie Henry bagging a hat-trick while South African international fullback Willie le Roux and Japan international number eight Kazuki Himeno also got their names in the try scorers’ list. Honda are a feisty side, but Toyota at home will be a daunting challenge.
At the Expo Stadium in Osaka on Saturday, Suntory Sungoliath play NEC Green Rockets. The Sungoliath had a surprise loss to archrivals Toshiba in their first game but followed that up with a win over NTT Communications in round two. Last Sunday, however, Suntory fell short against Kobe Steel, going down 35-29 for their second loss of the season. For the Green Rockets, though, it has been a horror start with losses to Sanix, Hino and Canon keeping them on the bottom of the table. Suntory should be far too strong for the struggling NEC with former Wallabies in number eight and captain Sean McMahon and five-eighth Matt Giteau leading the way.
On Sunday, Canon Eagles host Panasonic Wild Knights at the Machida Gion Stadium in Tokyo. The Eagles started the new season with a heavy loss to reigning champions Kobe Steel but recovered to beat Mitsubishi Sagamihara and NEC. In contrast, Panasonic have had comfortable wins over Kubota, Toyota and Mitsubishi Sagamihara to sit on top of the table on the maximum of fifteen points. The star-studded Panasonic outfit should continue on their winning way with the likes of former New Zealand lock Sam Whitelock and South African centre Damian de Allende just a few of the big names in this team.
Also on Sunday, Ricoh Black Rams and NTT Communications Shining Arcs face off at the Nippatsu Mitsuzawa Stadium in Yokohama. The Black Rams had a shock loss to Honda in Osaka in week one before scrambling home over Sanix in Fukuoka. Last Sunday, the Black Rams were humbled 38-0 by Yamaha in Kyoto. On the other side of the field, the Shining Arcs started with a good win over Hino before losing to Suntory. NTT then had a gruelling one-point loss to Kubota last week. The Shining Arcs start as favourites in this one with South African hooker Malcolm Marx the stand out as the man of the match in a losing side last round.
Elsewhere, Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers play NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes at the Nippatsu Mitsuzawa Stadium in Yokohama. Reigning champions Kobe Steel have had big wins over Canon, Yamaha and Suntory to pick up where they left off last season. The Red Hurricanes started with a win over Mitsubishi Sagamihara, but followed that up with losses to Toshiba and Sanix. On paper, the Red Hurricanes will be no match for this highly-fancied Steelers outfit that have quality right across the field with the halves combination of Andy Ellis and Dan Carter at the core.
In the final game of round four, Munakata Sanix Blues play Kubota Spears in Tosu city in Saga prefecture. Sanix beat NEC in their first game, and had a few things gone their way, they could have had a second win against Ricoh. However, that second win came last week with a resounding 49-19 win over Docomo at the Global Arena. The Spears lost to Panasonic in the first week, beat Honda in round two before making it back-to-back wins with a one-point victory over NTT Communications last Saturday. This should be an evenly matched contest, and the difference between the two sides could come down to the playmakers in Bernard Foley for Kubota and Hiroshi Tashiro for Sanix.