All posts by CJ

Rugby aficionado, language guru &; global traveller, as well as a player agent for Japanese rugby, both Top League and under-aged players.

Japanese Womens Rugby Team Makes History on the Gold Coast

Last Tuesday night at Bond University on the Gold Coast the Japanese women’s rugby team, known as the Sakura 15, defeated the Wallaroos 12 to 10. Despite 10 personnel and positional changes due to COVID Tests on the eve the match, they were able to overcome their more fancied rivals.

The first half was dominated by the decidedly larger Aussie side in both scrums and lineouts. However, the tenacious Japanese side made their tackles and held them out to keep the score at nil-all going to the sheds.

@brisbanerugby on Instagram

In the second half it was No. 10 Ayasa Otsuka that kicked through a dropped ball by the Wallaroos in their own 22 to snatch a try in the 49th minute. She successfully converted her try to put the Sakura 15 ahead 7-0.

The Wallaroos continued to work the ball downfield and off a rolling maul, Ashley Masteri, was in for the Aussies first score. The Sakura 15 put some good phases together and eventually put Kyoko Hosokawa in to extend their lead to 12-5. However, the Wallaroos were not going to give in and Adiana Talakai managed to cross out wide. Once again Lori Crammer missed the conversion so the score remained 10-12. Crammer had an easier penalty shot in the 79th minute to steal the match for the Wallaroos, but was unsuccessful. Crammer’s 0 and 3 with the boot proved decisive for the home team.

Courtesy of Japan Rugby Football Union.

The short turnaround from Friday night’s 36-19 demolition of Fijiana at Suncorp Stadium was no excuse for Jay Tregonning fielding the same 23. The last time the two sides met on the 19th of July, 2019, the Aussies won 46-3 after beating them 34-5 on the 13th of July, 2019. The only other time the two side have met was the 17th of August, 2017, at the Rugby World Cup in Ireland where the Wallaroos were also victorious winning 29-15.

It was history making on the Gold Coast for the Sakura 15 with plenty of Japanese in the crowd. This bodes well for their campaign for the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand later this year in October/November.

Photo courtesy of Nao Hirano on Facebook.

Reds Holdout Fijian Drua to Remain Undefeated

Heading in to Round 5 of Super Rugby Pacific, only the Brumbies and the Reds remain undefeated. They face off against each other this Friday in Canberra to see which team remains undefeated for the 2022 season. The matchup between Tom Banks and Jordan Petaia at fullback will be interesting ahead of Wallaby selection. Petaia played a great game there for the Reds in his first chance to run on with the 15 jersey. Both in attack and defence he imposed himself as a real contender for the Wallaby role there.

Petaia’s try saving tackle courtesy of Super Rugby Pacific

An injury ravaged Reds held out Fijian Drua at the weekend, ironically, it was a Fijian in Seru Uru that saved the Reds from an embarrassing result. Up four tries to nil with 15 minutes to go it looked like the Reds were heading for a bonus point victory until the visitors scored three unanswered tries in quick succession. With less than 10 minutes remaining on the clock the scores were locked at 28-all before Uru reached over from a maul to score a five-pointer taking the score to 33-28 to the Reds. That is not where the drama ended as Uru stole a lineout off the Fijians on the Queensland line at the fulltime mark to deny them drawing level or even winning.

Coach Brad Thorn said, “For our team, a game like that can be a challenge because there’s space and there’s opportunities but you’ve almost got to rein it in a little bit.

“Keep your patience, don’t overplay – that’s probably how I would assess that.”

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 12: Seru Uru of the Reds runs the ball during the round four Super Rugby Pacific match between the Queensland Reds and the Fijian Drua at Suncorp Stadium on March 12, 2022 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Uru’s (pictured above) standout performance has made Thorn’s job a little bit harder this week with the expected return of captain Liam Wright in the position Uru was playing. It’s really a good headache to have knowing that the Reds have depth and that the guys will really put in for each other when their chance comes. That depth will be really tested on Friday when they come up against the Brumbies that are also in red hot form.

Reds Are Ready to Rumble in 2022

The Queensland Reds begin their campaign against the Melbourne Rebels at their fortress, Suncorp Stadium, on February 19th. Winners of Super Rugby AU last season they will be looking to extend this form into the expanded inaugural Super Rugby Pacific competition. Due to ongoing restrictions with Covid 19 they will play all the Australian domestic matches, including newcomers Fijian Drua, in the first half of the draw with the Trans-Tasman matches in the second half. Similar to last year the New Zealand matches, including newcomers Moana Pasifika, will be at the back end and it’s here where the Queensland Reds want to improve on their solitary win against our Kiwi brothers.

Preseason training at Ballymore has been hot and humid over the summer which will have the boys rearing to go. They have two trial matches against the Western Force and NSW Waratahs, both of which will now be played in Queensland. Firstly, they will play a closed trial against the Western Force at Ballymore that will be live-streamed to Reds’ email subscribers on February 5th. A week later, on February 12th, the Roma Echidnas will host Queensland verse New South Wales as the centrepiece of the second annual Santos Festival of Rugby.

Due to his breakout year with the Wallabies last year, 23-year-old Tate McDermott (below), will assume co-captain duties with Liam Wright (above). Reds coach Brad Thorn said: “They both embody what it means to be a ‘Reds Man’ -they’re humble and hard-working who uphold the standards of the maroon jersey.

McDermott said: “It is a tremendous honour to be announced as a co-captain of the Queensland Reds alongside Liam Wright.

To be etched into the fabric of Queensland Rugby, in company with many former great captains of the game, is something my family and I will forever treasure. Upon reflection of my initial chat with Thorny, our job now turns to unleashing the untapped potential within our side.”

CJ and Tate McDermott at Ballymore courtesy of @Brisbanerugby on Instagram

Mori Can’t See The Forest for the Trees

Former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori last week fell on his sword as the Head of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee after his misogynistic words uttered earlier this month. Referring to his time as the president of the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) he said, “Women have a strong sense of rivalry. If one (female) raises her hand to speak, all the others feel the need to speak too”. Some of the automatic translation of what he said was eyeopening, to say the least (see below). Ironically, at the time he was in the top job at the JRFU there was only one female committee member.

As part of the powerful Hosokawa faction in the leading Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in Japan, Mori still wields power. He’s used to getting his way and this is the reason why several weeks passed since the comments were made before he resigned from the Olympic committee. Normally business as usual would have prevailed, with the ‘old boys club’ allowed to go on their way. However, it is believed that the president of Toyota Motor Corp. Akio Toyoda, one of the major sponsors of the Olympics paying about US$1 billion every four years, may have been the strongest catalyst to his resignation. Toyoda said, “The (Mori) comments are different from our values, and we find it regrettable”.

Super Rugby Aotearoa 2021

The rejection of the Moana Pasifika bid to join the NZ Super Rugby Competition in 2021 by the NZ Rugby Union is hard to comprehend and shows a lack of willingness on their part to expand the Super Rugby Competition and to grow the game of Rugby Union in the Pacific Islands.

The ‘Moana Pasifika‘ offer had been prepared meticulously and presented with a feasibility plan that contained more than 100 pages of cost analysis, possible squads and coaching teams.

On the one hand the NZ Rugby Union have said that they are going to make losses of $100 Million, yet the ‘Moana Pasifika‘ proposal was expected to make a profit in their very first season! So how realistic was that expectation by the NZ Rugby Union? That being said the ‘Moana Pasifika‘ process showed through their projected sums that they could break even in 2021. The Pacific Islands has been a nursery for producing some brilliant All Blacks over a long period of time, you only need to look at  two legendary figures of the game in Sir Bryan Williams and Sir Michael Jones who are a credit to the game of Rugby Union, are  proud of their heritage and who have been passionately backing and campaigning for a ‘Moana Pasifika‘ side to join the Super Rugby since 1995.

Michael Jones courtesy of stuff.co.nz

It goes without saying what it would do for the development of Rugby Union in the Pacific Islands and how it would inspire and motivate young boys to follow their dreams if the ‘Moana Pasifika’ bid had been successful.

Now to make their vision a reality the ‘Moana Pasifika‘ bid may be forced to revise their offer and shift the team from their proposed base in South Auckland to Western Sydney and play in the Australian Super Rugby AU Competition.

It can only be hoped that the NZ Rugby Union will reconsider their decision on the ‘Moana Pasifika’ proposal, which has a lot of merit and look at it from all different angles.

GJ (Gold Coast/Kiwi reporter)

Reds Bring Home the Bacon

The Queensland Reds have finally broken an 11 match hoodoo! After 7 long years, they have nailed arch interstate rivals the New South Wales Waratahs with a 32-26 victory at Suncorp Stadium.

In front of a sparse crowd, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Reds were out of the blocks early with their fearless leader, Liam Wright, going over in the sixth minute. Though, this was short lived when the ‘Tahs prop, Harry Johnson-Holmes, scrambled over the line in the tenth minute to level the score 7-all. A bruising affair ensued as the Reds scrum & line-out dominated resulting in two more tries for the home side to lead 19-7. However, last year’s Junior Wallabies’ No. 10, Will Harrison, slotted two penalties in the last six minutes before halftime to go to the sheds only 6 behind at 19-13.

Harrison’s sharp shooting landed another penalty goal early in the second half followed by Jack Maddocks slicing through a gap off the ruck to score under the posts. The visitors were now leading 23-19 only 8 minutes in.

A try to another 2019 Junior Wallaby, No.8 Harry Wilson, in the 64th minute that was converted had the Reds back in the lead at 26-23. Only three minutes later the Harrison boot equaled the score before the confident boot of James O’Conner took over, from an indifferent kicking display from Bryce Hegarty, to put the match out of reach with two penalties at the 75th & 80th minute mark to break the 26-all deadlock.

A fairly even match with the Reds having 57% of possession, 58% of territory and scoring four tries to two making them the deserved winners in a tough State verse State, mate against mate encounter.

James O’Conner said after the match: “It was an awesome effort by the guys. We dug deep and obviously winning it right at the end was amazing.”

Though he admitted: “We were pretty scrappy… There’s a lot to improve on.”

Special mention for debutante Tuaina Tualima coming on early in the first half for Angus Blyth. He definitely will benefit for the hour+ he had on the paddock.

Photo courtesy of Fox Sports

Suncorp Sayonara

What was billed as a double header with four nations involved turned out to be a fizzer due to coronavirus with a paltry 7335 swallowed by the cavernous 52,000-seat Suncorp Stadium. Not that the action on the field suffered. With the tenacious Sunwolves holding out the mighty crusaders in the first half nearly going to the break 7-all. It was only basic errors up against a far superior opponent that meant that the scoreline got away to14-49 loss, despite their numerical advantage of two players at the death. Jake Shatz said he was proud of the way his boys stuck it to the more fancied Kiwis and as the Japanese coach, Naoya Okubo, told me after the match that the camaraderie amongst his squad being away from their Tokyo base for so long has been great. Of course, having a few local Aussie members has helped and there has been no shortage of local clubs bending over backwards to provide training pitches non gratis.

The Reds, unaffected by the lower then normal turnout, proved my early assessment correct that this cohort will go places. Down 0-17 they dug deep to show the faithful that their 4-try haul against the Crusaders last week could be backed up scoring 41 unanswered points to win 41-17. Captain courageous, Liam Wright (picture courtesy of Brendan Hertel QRU), has put Michael Hooper on notice that his cushy multi-million dollar contract might mean he can purchase more houses on Sydney’s North Shore but he doesn’t haven’t a mortgage on the Wallabies position.

Another massive performance from Lukan Salakai-Loto, who told me after the match he prefers No. 6 for the Wallabies, and BrisbaneRugby favourite son Isaac Lucus added to the positives from this match ahead of Super Rugby going into a hiatus. And when live-wire halfback Tate McDermott came on the team lifted another notch.

CJ with Tate McDermott on Instagram @brisbanerugbycom

The Sun Also Rises

The nomadic Sunwolves should make the Sunshine State their home base in their final Super Rugby season, moreover Townsville in the north with a new 25,000-seat stadium. It would be a win-win for all parties concerned starting with their match against the Reds on April 5. The north has been crying out for a Super Rugby match, something they haven’t experienced since 2006 and, as I reported last year, there is a healthy following of rugby union up there: https://brisbanerugby.com/2019/07/09/rugby-in-the-regions/.

With the onset of coronavirus tourism has had a huge setback and I’m sure Tourism & Events Minister, Kate Jones, would bend over backwards to help the Japanese team out. The extra Japanese eyeballs on the area would be welcome, especially if they played out the rest of their ‘home’ games there and their Tokyo supporters made there way to Tropical Queensland.

Honorable Member for Ashgrove, Kate Jones. Photo courtsy of The Courier Mail.

The Sunwolves are like ronin, or masterless samurai, although they are a motley crew of ex-pat Aussie, Kiwis, South Africans and some Japanese they do have some local Queensland representatives, such as captain Jake Shatz, to build some domestic support behind moving forward especially if they evolve into a team in Global Rapid Rugby next season. I know Tim Horan’s son Alex, who debuted for the Sunwolves two weeks ago in New Zealand, has two compatriots in Townsville at James Cook University that played Colts with him in Brisbane that would be getting behind the side.

Twiggy Forrest’s Global Rapid Rugby

What Did We Learn from the Weekend?

If reports out of France are true it’s au voire to Kurtley Beale as they will pay for his retirement through French Club Racing 92. Good riddance I’d say as he’s well past his use-by date, costing us a semifinal berth at RWC2019 last year. I know he had to go along to Cheika’s Waratahs swansong in Japan as reward for winning the Super Rugby title in 2014; though when is enough enough? I still remember how he lined up for that unmissable final kick at Lang Park in 2013 to defeat the British & Irish Lions in Game 1; what a disgrace. He may have slotted that 50m+ bomb at Loftus to break a Wallaby drought of wins on the high veldt, but that British & Irish Lions debacle was a bridge too far. Giving him the captaincy at the weekend didn’t change a thing, Kurtley is still Kurtley Beale; when he’s good he’s very very good, but when he’s bad he’s awful.

I said it before, and I’ll say it again. “There’s a lot to like about the Reds of 2020”. With James O’Conner nursing an ankle injury, Brad Thorn gave BrisbaneRugby favourite son, Izaac Lukus (pictured with CJ), a licence to thrill in the No. 10 jersey and he didn’t disappoint. Up against All Black pivot Richie Mo’unga he was not afraid to take on the champion defence. The most successful team in the 25 years of Super Rugby were unsure of how to take the young Queenslanders; they even looked rattled in attack. Thorn knows how well they prepare at home, being a past Crusaders player himself, so he would have been delighted with the narrow loss. My daughter even noted the 20-24 loss saying that the Reds must have been ‘aweful’ and I informed her that the Reds actually scored 4 tries to 3; leaving 8 points on the field.

Along with my Souths Rugby Club compatriot, Andrew Slack, I was equally concerned why the rotation policy had meant that live-wire halfback, Tate McDermott. wasn’t in the run-on 15 for this must win clash. They opted for Samoan halfback, Scott Malolua to have over an hour of game time. Admittedly, Lukan Salakai-Loto showed his rest from the starting 15 last week earned him Green & Gold MOM this week.

Timely return to Ballymore for English kicking guru, Dave Alred. The Kiwis can, South Africa can. How good would it be to have a Leigh Halfpenny, a Dan Bigger or even Owen Farrell all banging over 100% at Twickenham over the weekend in their Round Four clash. Three tries a piece but the scoreline read England 33-30 over Wales. It’s what makes the Guinness Six Nations so attractive to corporate sponsorship. Game management by England was key to their weekend win and another Triple Crown. Raelene Castle should be checking Eddie Jones’ contractual arrangements, to try to get him back in time for France 2023 World Cup. (Full report of Six Nations RD #4: https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/77206314/posts/2617244225)

With Andrew Twiggy Forrest’s Global Rapid Rugby speeding up the game with shorter halves. Alan Jones wrote in The Australian on Friday about extending the time, allegedly to account for ‘time wasting’ with scrums. As with The Australian’s Rugby Editor, Wayne Smith, I too was intrigued by the novel concept of extending the halves by 5 minutes to match football, ie. soccer.

Aussie 7s in Vancouver were unlucky to go down 14-17 to the NZ 7s in the HSBC Sevens Series Cup final. Aussie 7s haven’t beaten the Kiwis in a 7s final since Brisbane 2002.

Revamped Reds on Kiwi Crusade

There’s a lot to like about this 2020 Reds side despite only one win from six outings. Easing Brisbanerugby favourite Izaac Lukus back into the starting pivot as James O’Conner sits out this week with the ankle injury he sustained in last weeks loss to the Sharks at Lang Park. I like what Brad Thorn is doing over at Ballymore resting his chargers, such as livewire halfback Tate McDermott coming off the pine today in Christchurch as he has chosen to start with Samoan national rep, Scott Malolua at 9. Also, Wallaby utility forward, Lukan Salakaia-Loto is back starting replacing Izack Rodda (calf niggle) in the second row, with Angus Scott-Young retained as blind side flanker.

I’m thinking 2010 Reds under Ewen McKenzie and we all know what happened in 2011.