Koza wins a ticket to Hanazono in high school rugby

Koza wins a ticket to Hanazono in high school rugby

In 12th minute of the second half of the final between Koza and Nago, Kenichiro Kuwae, the key player in the Koza High School team, scored after bursting through the opposition’s defense. On November 1, this final game of the Okinawa Prefecture tournament for the 92nd Japan National High School Rugby Championship was held the Okinawa Prefectural Sports Park. (Photograph taken by Hiroaki Yamashiro)


November 2, 2012 Risa Arakaki of Ryukyu Shimpo

On November 1, at the Okinawa Prefectural Sports Park rugby field, the final of the Okinawa Prefecture tournament was held for the 92nd Japan National High School Rugby Championships. Koza beat Nago 38-22, and won the right to participate in the National Tournament at Hanazono in Osaka for the second consecutive year, its 12 time to represent Okinawa.

In the first minute, influential Koza flyhalf Kenichiro Kuwae scored the opening try, but a series of errors stopped his team from taking total control, so Koza went into the halftime break leading 17-10, after conceding two tries to Nago.
However, in the second half, Koza shook off Nago, scoring three tries in quick succession by moving the ball wide at every opportunity. The opening ceremony and first games of the National High School Rugby Championship will be held at Kintetsu Hanazono Rugby Stadium on December 27.
Koza HS defeated Nago HS 38-22 (17-10, 21-12)

(Koza will compete at Hanazono for the second year in a row and represents Okinawa for the 12th time.)

In second half, employing a high-tempo game, Kuwae spearheaded his team’s determined attacks on the Nago goal-line.

Koza came into its own in the second half, skillfully employing decoy runners to pull in the opposition’s defense and also using kicks well. Scored three quick tries, in the end, Koza defeated Nago through its high-tempo, “wide-wide” approach making use of the full width of the field.

In the 57th minute of the second half, Kuwae scored a second try as Koza launched an onslaught on their opposition’s goal-line. Winning their own set-piece comfortably, the Koza players moved the ball to the left and to the right with Kuwae as the key attacking link. Every time the opponent’s defense stopped them Koza continued to second and third phase attacks, happy to move the ball out from their own half until they eventually got it over the Nago line.

By 24th minute of the second half, Koza had scored another three tries to lead 38-10.

Director of Rugby at Koza High School Yutaka Toma said that they played “some exceptional rugby.” Koza succeeded in all of their six conversions and were superior to Nago in the accuracy of their kicking in general. However, in the last minutes of the game, Koza was put on the back foot in rucks and mauls by Nago, and conceded two tries. Toma said, “The Nago players understood the importance of scoring in the closing stages, and in that mental aspect of the game, they beat us hands down.” He vowed to work on his team’s mental toughness.

“We let our standards slip right at the end,” said captain, Hikaru Uesato, when reflecting on the defensive lapses in the final minutes. He went on to say, “We put in a lot of work in running during spring and summer, so we were able to play this kind of expansive game.”
Almost all of the core members of this team are the same as last year, so it is effectively the second attempt for these boys to make an impression at the Hanazono tournament. Ahead of playing on the big stage, Kuwae said, “I am bigger physically now so I can carry the ball forward more effectively. We intend to play our style of running rugby and aim to get into the quarter-finals.”

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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