Japan Rugby Top League 2020 Round 6 Preview
|Sat, 22 Feb 2020||NEC||Ricoh||11:30||Chichibu, Tokyo|
|Mitsubishi Sagamihara||Yamaha||11:30||Mizuho Stadium, Aichi|
|Toyota||Kubota||14:00||Mizuho Stadium, Aichi|
|Honda||NTT Communications||13:00||Suzuka, Mie|
|NTT Docomo||Panasonic||14:00||Hanazono, Osaka|
|Sun, 23 Feb 2020||Kobe||Toshiba||13:00||Universiade Stadium, Kobe|
To open round six, NEC Green Rockets and Ricoh Black Rams go head to head in the first game of a double header at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo. The Green Rockets have had a wretched start to 2020 with five straight losses seeing them languish on the bottom of the table as the only team without a win. The 21-14 loss to Mitsubishi Sagamihara last week would not have helped their confidence as NEC now look for some magic to break the run of outs. However, things are not much better for the Black Rams who are well down the table with only the one win to their name. All in all, this should end up being an even contest with both sides desperate for the win.
In the second game at Chichibu, Hino Red Dolphins face Suntory Sungoliath. The Red Dolphins were highly competitive over the opening rounds, but since then, defence has been their Achilles’ heel. This is something they will have to address if they are to stay with their more fancied rivals over eighty minutes this Saturday. Suntory have had losses to Toshiba and Kobe so far this season, but their impressive 60-14 win over Toyota in Osaka last Saturday should sound the alarm bells to all other teams in the league. The Sungoliath scored a lot of their tries against Toyota out wide with wing Shota Emi, fullback Kotaro Matsushima and centre Yusuke Kajimura the main dangers.
In the first game of a double header at the Paloma Mizuho Stadium in Nagoya on Saturday afternoon, Mitsubishi Sagamihara Dynaboars play Yamaha Jubilo. The Dynaboars chalked up their first-ever win in Top League last Sunday when they beat NEC 21-14, but they will find the going tougher against Yamaha. On the other hand, Yamaha are currently sitting in third place on the table with 19 points from four wins and one loss. In their last match, the Jubilo pummelled Docomo 82-7 with with wings Malo Tuitama and Jayden Ngamanu both scoring hat-tricks in the 12-tries-to-one win. All considered, Yamaha will be aiming for another big performance against the newly promoted Mitsubishi.
In the second game at Mizuho, Toyota Verblitz host Kubota Spears. An out-of-sorts Toyota outfit succumbed 60-12 to Suntory in Osaka last round for their third loss in five games. The pressure is now on the Verblitz to turn things around with a good showing against Kubota. However, Toyota will not have things all their own way with the Spears shaping as the dark horse this season. Kubota sit in fourth place on the table with just the one loss, and they can be expected to throw everything at Toyota. Former Wallabies five-eighth Bernard Foley has made a huge difference to things at Kubota this season, and he is bringing out the best in his teammates.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Honda Heat host NTT Communications Shining Arcs in Suzuka in Mie prefecture. Honda have two wins from their opening five games, but had a few things gone their way, they could have had more wins. The Heat come in to this match on the back of a healthy 39-24 win over Canon in Kumagaya last week, and should they take that form to Suzuka, NTT will be in for a tough match. Nonetheless, the Shining Arcs also had a solid workout last week with a 74-11 win over Sanix. Japan number eight Amanaki Mafi helped himself to three five-pointers against Sanix while South African hooker Malcolm Marx was a constant threat.
In the first game of a double header at the Higashiosaka Hanazono Rugby Stadium in Osaka on Saturday afternoon, Canon Eagles play Munakata Sanix Blues. Both these sides have had two wins for three losses so far this season, but neither side is setting the world alight. The Eagles could not match it with Honda last week in Kumagaya with the latter running out comfortable 39-24 winners while the Blues also had a forgettable afternoon in Tokyo as NTT Communications pounded them 74-11. This is a crucial match for both the Eagles and the Blues in shaping the rest of the season ahead.
In the other game at Hanazono, NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes stay in their hometown to host the unbeaten Panasonic Wild Knights. The Red Hurricanes scored a win over Mitsubishi Sagamihara in the opening round, but after that, things have gone awry. The last two rounds have seen Docomo shift about 180 points to Kobe and then Yamaha with the high-flying Panasonic now next in line. It could be a long day at the office for the NTT side if recent form is any indication. Panasonic have picked up maximum points in all five games so far this season to put them on top of the league table. They have talent to burn right across the field with wing Koki Takeyama making a name for himself in the try scoring department.
In the only Sunday game, Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers play Toshiba Brave Lupus at the Universiade Stadium in Kobe. The undefeated Steelers will be looking to keep that record intact against a Toshiba side that is packing a solid punch this season. Kobe have all bases covered in 2020 with the likes of barnstorming number eight Taumua Naeta and Japan international fullback Ryohei Yamanaka leading by example week in week out. Toshiba suffered their first loss of the year last week when they went down 46-27 to Panasonic despite leading 27-22 early in the second period. The Brave Lupus cannot afford any lapses against this star-studded Kobe side, or they will be punished severely.