18:14 9 January 2017
Rugby: Teikyo win unprecedented 8th straight university title
By Rich Freeman
TOKYO, Jan. 9, Kyodo
Teikyo University won an unprecedented eighth straight collegiate title Monday as they beat Tokai University 33-26 at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.
With Japan international Rikiya Matsuda steering the ship well at flyhalf, Masayuki Iwade's men probably deserved the win but the neutrals in the crowd of 13,776 were left with a sour taste in their mouth as it was not without a considerable amount of controversy.
The lack of a Television Match Official and a referee clearly carrying an injury and struggling to keep up all came to the fore in the 68th minute when Koki Takeyama was adjudged to have touched down following a clever kick from man-of-the-match Matsuda.
The replays clearly showed the wing got nowhere near touching the ball down but Teikyo rode their luck and -- despite a late try from Tevita Tatafu -- held on to win the 53rd edition of the University Championship and earn a spot in the season-ending All-Japan Championship.
"It was called a try so it was a try," Tokai coach Hideyuki Kimura said diplomatically after the game. "We played to our strengths but we gave the momentum to Teikyo by our own mistakes."
For Teikyo there was nothing but joy.
"Everyone has a smile on their face," said Matsuda. "The last 15 minutes of the first half we were finally able to play our own brand of rugby and that gave us confidence."
Iwade said he was proud of his players and coaches and that the "goal now is to beat a Top League team."
Tokai laid out their intentions early on when a strong scrum and a prolonged driving maul saw Yuya Otsuka go over in the sixth minute.
Aggressive defense from the Seagales saw Teikyo constantly on the back foot and Tatafu extended the lead in the 17th minute following a series of scrums close to the Teikyo line.
With full internationals Shogo Miura, Takayuki Watanabe and Tatafu to the fore, the Tokai pack were dominating the tight and the loose and it needed some inspiration from Matsuda to get Teikyo back into the game.
The 22-year-old, who will join Panasonic Wild Knights when he graduates in March, put in a clever grubber kick behind the Tokai defense and No. 8 Brodi McCurran beat the cover to touch down.
Matsuda's conversion made it 14-7 and he was again on target four minutes later in the 39th minute when Hironori Yatomi crossed as Teikyo stretched Tokai from side to side to create an overlap.
The second half opened with Tokai once again going ahead as Atsushi Yumoto intercepted a dreadful pass from his opposite number and went over unopposed from the halfway line.
But three tries in the space of 13 minutes saw Teikyo hit back and take control.
Yatomi went over for his second following a great break through the middle by Kazuki Himeno, McCurran put Kyo Yoshida away in the 63rd minute before the officials handed Takeyama his try on a platter.
"Teikyo's concentration at critical moments was better than ours," said Tokai captain Yuta Isobe.
Tatafu's second pushover try of the game with five minutes remaining gave Tokai some hope of a first ever title. But Teikyo held on to allow the squad to don T-shirts bearing the slogan "Legacy of Legends," as they did a lap of honor with the plethora of silverware they picked up.