Blue Revs' Relentless Attack in the Rain Defeats Toyota Verblitz

On March 23, Toyota Verblitz faced Shizuoka Blue Revs at Ecopa Stadium in the League One Round 11 match. Verblitz were dominated by the Blue Revs throughout the game, resulting in a score of 8-24 at full time. The overall record now stands at 5 wins and 6 losses. Despite being tied with Blue Revs at 24 points, they slipped to 8th place due to point differential.

The temperature was 11 degrees, and the rain was pouring heavily as Blue Revs attacked with the ball from the start."Verblitz' halfbacks are from the All Blacks. To counter that, we needed to take some risks, kick the ball behind them, and chase," said Yuichiro Fujii, who became Blue Revs' head coach this season after serving as the director of the Japan national team until last season. Before that, he coached at Top League's Munakata Sanix Blues, defeating strong teams as the underdogs."We could have played it safe, but then Toyota would have dictated the game," added Coach Fujii.

It was an unexpected attack in the rain. Verblitz, probably anticipating a structured kicking game, was thrown off guard. Just after scoring a penalty goal, Verblitz conceded a penalty try due to a high tackle by fly-half Beauden Barrett within their own goal area. This decision came because without that tackle, Blue Revs would have scored a try. This put Verblitz on the back foot at 3-7. Blue Revs continued to play aggressively, with strong runners making significant gains. Verblitz found themselves struggling at the breakdowns. 

Although they had moments of dominance in the scrums, they also conceded several penalties. Blue Revs started the game with a 24-year-old Takayoshi Mohara (187 cm, 116 kg) at prop and early entry Sean Vete (193 cm, 132 kg) on the other side, both formidable young players. Assisting in their scrum tactics was Shin Hasegawa, Fujii's right-hand man and former scrum coach for the Japan national team. In terms of experience and strategy, Toyota's Shogo Miura and Genki Sudo had the upper hand, but Blue Revs' strategy focused on utilizing their size advantage to dominate."The forwards focused on power and weight in the first half. Since we lacked experience, we made changes before our weaknesses were exposed," explained Coach Fujii. Toyota had faced a series of penalties in their previous game against Tokyo Sungoliath and encountered similar issues this time. Thirty minutes into the first half, Captain Kazuki Himeno received a warning from the referee regarding the team's high penalty count.

The first half ended with Blue Revs leading 16-3. In the 48th minute, a crucial moment defined the outcome. Toyota, on the defensive side, won a penalty, and Barrett's kick brought them closer to Shizuoka's 22-meter line. A try here could have turned the tide quickly. However, their lineout throw didn't reach their own player and was caught by the opposition hooker Takeshi Hino. Without hesitation, Hino kicked the ball out, and due to the 50-22 rule introduced in 2021 (if a team kicks from within their half and the ball bounces into touch beyond the opponent's 22-meter line, the kicking team gets the throw-in at the lineout), Blue Revs regained possession.

From that point, they built phases, and in the 50th minute, Winger Keagan Faria scored a try, extending their lead to 21-3. This widened the gap further. "I kicked unconsciously because the back space was open. When both teams were in a deadlock, the ball rolled nicely, allowing us to score from there," commented Hino. Hino had been practicing kicks after full-team training sessions since the introduction of the rule. "Everyone practices kicks," Hino added.

Toyota managed to score a try through Lock Josh Dixon in the 74th minute, but it was not enough as they lost 8-24, their lowest score of the season, marking a consecutive defeat. "They managed the game well in the rain. It was our first match of the season in the rain, and our inability to adapt was the reason for the loss," stated Captain Himeno.Toyota committed 14 penalties compared to their 7. "We have to be more conscious during our weekly training sessions. It will take time. As captain, I'll do what I can, but it's crucial for each individual to be aware," added Captain Himeno.

This was Toyota's first defeat against Blue Revs in League One. When asked about his thoughts on the first victory, Coach Fujii jokingly replied, "Oh, really?" but confidently stated, "We no longer fear them." Their theme for the day was "1 Round KO."

With the inter-conference matches against Conference A concluded, Toyota will have a bye week before facing Conference B teams for five consecutive weeks. The break after this loss is fortunate. They need to reevaluate their performance and show a united front in the upcoming matches, demonstrating what "Toyota rugby" truly means.




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