Japan Rugby Top League 2020 Round 5 Preview
|Sat, 15 Feb 2020||Canon||Honda||11:30||Kumagaya, Saitama|
|NTT Communications||Sanix||13:00||Yumenoshima Stadium, Tokyo|
|NTT Docomo||Yamaha||11:30||Yanmar Stadium Nagai, Osaka|
|Suntory||Toyota||14:00||Yanmar Stadium Nagai, Osaka|
|Kobe||Ricoh||13:00||Universiade Stadium, Kobe|
|Sun, 16 Feb 2020||Kubota||Hino||13:00||Yumenoshima Stadium, Tokyo|
|Mitsubishi Sagamihara||NEC||13:00||Sagamihara, Kanagawa|
To open round five, Canon Eagles and Honda Heat go head to head in the first game of a double header at the Kumagaya Rugby Stadium in Saitama prefecture. The Eagles are in a cluster of teams mid table with two wins and two losses from the opening four rounds. In their last outing two weeks ago, they went down 51-17 to high-flying Panasonic in a tough game in Machida, but they will be expecting a win here against Honda. The Heat started the season with a gutsy win over Ricoh; however, since then they have suffered three wins on the trot. An upset is not beyond Honda, but the smart money will be on Canon for the win.
In the second game at Kumagaya, two of the three unbeaten sides in the league in Panasonic Wild Knights and Toshiba Brave Lupus face off. Panasonic have picked up maximum points in all four games so far this season, but Toshiba will be out to put a stop to that. Wing Koki Takeyama and South African centre Damian de Allende led the way for the Wild Knights in their win over Canon two weeks ago, but it will be up front where the battle will be won this week. Toshiba are a different side under head coach Todd Blackadder this season, but Panasonic will be the litmus test of how far fans can expect them to go in 2020.
Elsewhere on Saturday, NTT Communications Shining Arcs play Munakata Sanix Blues at the Yumenoshima Stadium in Tokyo. The Shining Arcs and the Blues both have ten points from two wins and two losses, so supporters should expect an evenly matched contest in Tokyo. However, in round four, NTT beat Ricoh 33-17 in Yokohama while Kubota drubbed Sanix 34-0 in Kyushu. Consequently, if form is any guide, Sanix may well face an uphill battle in this clash a long way from home.
In the first game of a double header at the Yanmar Stadium Nagai in Osaka on Saturday afternoon, NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes play Yamaha Jubilo. The Red Hurricanes scored a win over Mitsubishi Sagamihara in the opening round, but followed that up with losses to Toshiba and Sanix before suffering a thumping 97-0 loss to Kobe in round four. On the other hand, Yamaha are currently sitting in fourth place on the table with 14 points from three wins and one loss. In their last match, the Jubilo beat Hino 48-19 with flyhalf Sam Greene one of the stand outs.
In the second game in Osaka, two of the heavyweights in the league in Suntory Sungoliath and Toyota Verblitz go toe to toe. So far this year, both teams have 11 points from two wins and two losses, and so neither outfit can afford another loss this early in the season. Last round, the Sungoliath crushed NEC 40-14 in Osaka with five-eighth Matt Giteau prominent in the win. Meanwhile, the Verblitz put Honda to the sword 58-29 two weeks ago. Suntory cannot allow Toyota wing Jamie Henry any space out wide after he scored five tries in his past two games.
In the final Saturday game, Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers play Ricoh Black Rams at the Universiade Stadium in Kobe city. Reigning champions Kobe Steel have had four impressive wins from four starts with Dan Carter at the heart of those victories. The former All Blacks superstar sits on top of the point scorers list with daylight second, so Ricoh will need to watch their discipline and defence. That may be easier said than done though, as the Black Rams are well down the table with only the one win to their name. If Ricoh need any reminding of what they face, Kobe Steel scored 15 unanswered tries in their 97-0 rout of newly promoted Docomo last round.
On Sunday, Kubota Spears play Hino Red Dolphins at the Yumenoshima Stadium in Tokyo. Kubota are pulling their weight this season with three wins from the first four rounds keeping them near the top of the table. The Spears have playmaker Bernard Foley to thank for a lot of that, but others such as South African back-rowers Duane Vermeulen and Pieter Lappies Labuschagne are also contributing to the cause. Hino have one win for three losses and can expect to do it tough against a rejuvenated Kubota side.
In the final game of round five, Mitsubishi Sagamihara Dynaboars play NEC Green Rockets in Sagamihara city in Kanagawa prefecture. This is a battle of the two winless sides in the competition, so both teams will be desperate for a positive result. The newly promoted Dynaboars have lost to NTT Docomo, Canon, Panasonic and Toshiba while the Green Rockets have had demoralising losses to Sanix, Hino, Canon and Suntory. At home, Mitsubishi may well come up with the win as nothing seems to be going right for NEC this season.