Teikyo University and Tokai University will contest the 53rd collegiate rugby championship final following two contrasting semifinals at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground on Monday.
Teikyo, aiming for their eighth straight title, were made to work hard by Tenri University before running away with a 42-24 victory, while Tokai hammered Doshisha University 74-12 to set up the Jan. 9 final and ensure the Kanto area keeps its stranglehold on the collegiate trophy.
“It doesn’t matter which team we play. We have worked hard on our rugby for one year so we want to play our best rugby in the final,” said Teikyo coach Masayuki Iwade.
The two sides met last last year with Tokai going down 27-17 and coach Hideyuki Kimura said his team had unfinished business.
“It is not our goal to just go to the final. The goal is to win,” he said.
The last time a school from the Kansai area won the title was 1985, when former Japan captain and coach Seiji Hirao led Doshisha to their third straight title and fourth overall.
Following Hirao’s death on Oct. 20 last year, the Kyoto-based school were very much the sentimental favorites in this year’s tournament. But they were blown away by a rampant Tokai side that made the most of its international contingent.
Tevita Tatafu (3 caps for Japan) touched down five times, Ryuji Noguchi (4 caps) kicked seven conversions, Ataata Moeakiola (3 caps) scored a try and Shogo Miura (3 caps) was the pillar of the pack as Tokai made the most of their physical superiority.
In the second game of the doubleheader, a good break by Koji Iino set up Ryosuke Kanemura for an early try for Teikyo, with Rikiya Matsuda — capped three times by Japan — adding the extras.
Tenri hit back though with Josua Kerevi powering over as the Teikyo pack and defense, albeit temporarily, wilted under the pressure imposed on them by the students from Nara prefecture.
While the rest of the stanza was mainly played in the Tenri half, some stoic defense meant it wasn’t until the 39th minute that Teikyo scored again with Kosuke Horikoshi rumbling over to make it 14-5 at the break.
The game eventually turned in the space of 12 minutes early in the second half.
Center Hironori Yatomi went over for a superb individual effort in the 46th minute, and was soon followed onto the scoresheet by replacement prop Hiroki Shibuya and flyhalf Matsuda, who ended the day with six conversions to his name, as Teikyo went 35-5 up.
Kerevi’s second and third tries of the day highlighted what a talent he is, and had the Tenri fans in the crowd of 15,296 thinking a comeback might be on.
But Kim Ryong Ji killed off any hope of that when he crossed the chalk in the 68th minute to ensure Teikyo reached their ninth straight final despite a late consolation effort from Tenri’s Kazuhiro Taniguchi.