X League 


Hawkeye Almost Up to Challengers
Week One
Week One
Week One
Week One
Week One


Tama Hassas won the 2017 Brave Cup - Chris Pfaff, Inside Sport: Japan, July 23, 2017
Tama Hassas won the 2017 Brave Cup - Chris Pfaff, Inside Sport: Japan, July 23, 2017

Tama Hassas were crowned Japan’s top blind soccer club on Sunday afternoon, defeating Saitama T.Wings 1-0 in an exciting climax to the 2017 AXA Brave Cup.

A lively crowd at Amino Vital Field, braving occasional rainy weather saw not only the final, but the earlier third place match between Avanzare Tsukuba and Buen Cambio Yokohama.

For the uninitiated, blind soccer is a modified version of the beautiful game enjoyed by athletes with visual disabilities. The five-on-five contest takes place on a futsal-sized pitch, with boards along the sidelines and a regulation futsal ball with noisemakers that ring when kicked.

Outfield players, who all wear blindfolds to account for disparities in vision, are guided by the sound of the ball and the frequent shouts of their teammates and opponents. Many also choose to wear protective headgear, as scuffles for possession along the boards can be as intense as those seen in any ice hockey match.


Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers WR Donnie on top of Osaka's Sky Building — Lionel Piguet, Inside Sport: Japan, June 13, 2017
Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers WR Donnie on top of Osaka's Sky Building — Lionel Piguet, Inside Sport: Japan, June 13, 2017

In the second of our series of interviews with XLeague players we talk to Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers WR Donnie King.

The former Rainbow Warrior is the longest serving foreign player on the Challengers roster and the only American holdover from last season.

He’s joined this year by QB Alex Niznak who has moved over from Brazil’s Recife Mariners.

It’ll be the first time for King to play in Japan with an American signal caller and he’s relishing the opportunity.

“I am a guy who likes to run and I'm a guy who likes to beat someone man to man. So having an American quarterback is a great thing for me. There's nothing wrong with a Japanese quarterback. But an American QB can actually throw it a little bit farther and a little bit harder. So for me being a wide receiver, it's a great opportunity and I'm very excited for it. I've actually got overthrown. That's never happened in a very very long time. Alex actually overthrew me in the Amagasaki Bowl cos I misjudged his arm.”


Yokozuna Hakuho Breaks All-Time Win Record



Spring football finished with a cracker of a game at Tokyo Dome. Now that we have a couple of months until the regular season starts, what better time for the first ever Inside Sport: Japan Power Rankings.

Before we start it should be mentioned the purpose of power rankings is to cause anger, outrage and offense as well as provide motivation for players. So if you are on a team ranked much lower than you feel is appropriate and then use that slight to go on and have a great season……you’re welcome.Also remember we’re using spring games as the basis for these rankings. If that excuse doesn't wash, we encourage you to get revenge by sharing these rankings across all social media platforms to highlight our stupidity. Get even more revenge by having your friends follow us and share them too.


The Banzuke

Grand Sumo tournaments rightly get the lion’s share of attention given to sumo, but there is much more to the sport. A lot goes on in the period between each basho. One matter of interest to many fans, but often shrouded in mystery, is the creation of the new banzuke – the list detailing what rank each rikishi will be fighting at in the following tournament.

Unlike many other official sports rankings, and sometimes to the consternation of fans, the banzuke is not based on an impartial mathematical formula. However, it is far from arbitrary, mainly due to the moderating effect of there being a large number of people responsible for its creation. Those people are better known for their other, more public role: They are the black-clad oyakata (sumo elders) seated around the dohyo during tournaments. The judging department is made up of 23 members, comprising the chief judge (typically a former yokozuna or ozeki), his two deputies, and 20 regular oyakata, who meet on the Wednesday following each tournament to deliberate over and decide the ranking for each of the nearly 700 rikishi in professional Sumo.


Seagulls Edge Big Blue In Pearl Bowl Championship Game

Don’t tell anyone on Obic or IBM that the Pearl Bowl is the preseason. Every player came to play in this nail biter that saw the Seagulls outlast Big Blue 29-27. Obic wide receiver and kick return specialist Taro Mizuno was named game MVP after logging 51 yards on a single drive for a score as well as returning a kickoff for a TD that shifted the momentum back to Obic after IBM had clawed its way into the game. 


Fazekas Pulls Down MVP Award

Kawasaki Center Heads Best Five Team Vacant Of Players From Champion Tochigi

The B.League awards were held Tuesday night at Tokyo Midtown - Chris Pfaff, Inside Sport: Japan, May 30, 2017
The B.League awards were held Tuesday night at Tokyo Midtown - Chris Pfaff, Inside Sport: Japan, May 30, 2017

It might not make up for a loss in the championship final, but to Nick Fazekas,  being named MVP of the inaugural B.League season took a bit of the sting out of that crushing defeat.

"The last couple of days I've really been thinking about it, wondering what could have been done differently, what plays we could have run those last couple of minutes to make things different," Fazekas said at the B.League Award Show, just three days after his Kawasaki Brave Thunders fell 85-79 in the final to the Tochigi Brex.

"But obviously you kind of forget about it to an extent when you come over here with all of these guys and get congratulated, get patted on the back. And now you've got an MVP to show for it. But it still doesn't sit well with me. Obviously I'm going to go into the summer working really hard, and I hope to be even better next season to give ourselves that much more of a chance."


Celebration Day For Brex Nation

Gibbs Takes Over In 4th Quarter As Tochigi Edges Kawasaki For 1st Title Of New League

The first-ever B.League final saw Tochigi Brex crowned champions - Takuhei Minami, Inside Sport: Japan, May 27, 2017
The first-ever B.League final saw Tochigi Brex crowned champions - Takuhei Minami, Inside Sport: Japan, May 27, 2017

In the closing seconds of the B.League championship game, Tochigi Brex forward Jeff Gibbs skipped off the court on his left foot after injuring his right ankle diving for a loose ball.

A tough break, but nothing compared to havoc he wreaked on the Kawasaki Brave Thunders over the previous nine-plus minutes.

Gibbs scored 16 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter, when Tochigi pulled away late for an 85-79 victory and the league's inaugural title before a sellout crowd of 10, 144 at Tokyo's Yoyogi Gym.


Sunwolves Hammered By Cheetahs 47 -7

Home Side Start Well But Run Out Of Gas In Penultimate Home Game    

Cheetah's Ox Ache in action - Chris Pfaff, Inside Sport: Japan, May 27, 2017
Cheetah's Ox Ache in action - Chris Pfaff, Inside Sport: Japan, May 27, 2017

In a game reminiscent of their recent defeat to the Crusaders, the home side's kicking game was largely to blame, with the Cheetahs much more willing to play with the ball in hand and carve open the Sunwolves.

"It was a tough competition out there, especially in the first half, the Sunwolves' defence was exceptional. We dominated territory and possession enormously and they managed to keep us out," said the Cheetahs' Head Coach Franco Smith. "Fortunately, things went our way in the second half but the end result was not a true reflection of the quality of the side we played against."


Gardner, Nojima Overpower Frontiers To Book Spot In Semi-Finals

Fujitsu had no answer for Nojima's Gardner-led offense  - John Gunning Inside Sport: Japan, May 21, 2017
Fujitsu had no answer for Nojima's Gardner-led offense - John Gunning Inside Sport: Japan, May 21, 2017

A couple of weeks ago, we said the 2017 Nojima Sagamihara Rise team had “attitude” and after watching them beat the favored Fujitsu Frontiers 38-20 it’s clear that this team is on a mission. Some Frontiers’ starters saw very limited action and QB Colby Cameron didn’t play at all but given the way Devin Gardner performed, it’s questionable whether their presence would have affected the outcome. Gardner single-handedly willed his team to the first upset of the 2017 Pearl Bowl. 


Impulse Romp To Fourth Straight Green Bowl Title

Panasonic Impulse are best in the west. Panasonic easily beat the Elecom Kobe Finies 55-3 in the Green Bowl Championship game - the third year in a row with the same outcome.

Despite the lopsided final score, things started out evenly with Elecom’s offense moving the ball well. The opening drive saw five Elecom receivers pick up positive yards and starting QB Keijiro Kasuya completing all of his pass attempts. Elecom got no points on that drive but the offense got back to work on the next possession and got a field goal. At 6:31 in the second quarter Elecom’s offense had possessed the ball for all but three and a half minutes of the game.


Tough To Call This Shot

Kawasaki, Tochigi Evenly Matched In Clash For Inaugural League Title

As match-ups go, the B.League championship game on Saturday between the Kawasaki Brave Thunders and Tochigi Brex is about as close as you can get. Trying to find an edge is like looking for an open man under the basket. One might be there, but it's not always so easy to spot.

"We know they're a strong team, they finished with the second-best record in the league," Kawasaki center Nick Fazekas, the league scoring leader, told Inside Sport Japan earlier this week. "They got a lot of good weapons, so I think it's hard to just focus on one guy. I think we're going to have play collectively as a group really well in order to beat them."


Cyclones Lead Swept Away In Whirlwind Last 60 Seconds

Club Hawkeye WR Masahiro Aso had two catches; both touchdowns - Lionel Piguet, Inside Sport: Japan, May 20, 2017
Club Hawkeye WR Masahiro Aso had two catches; both touchdowns - Lionel Piguet, Inside Sport: Japan, May 20, 2017

The Green Bowl Challenge championship game ended in a 15-15 tie. Club Hawkeye scored touchdowns on their first and last possessions of the game including a two-point conversion with 16 seconds left on the clock.

The tie was a disappointment to Cyclones defensive lineman Akihiro Shibata who recorded the last of his team’s four sacks with less than a minute on the clock and Club Hawkeye trying to convert on fourth and four on the cusp of the red zone. The attempt ended with Shibata on top of the opposing QB at the 25 yard line. Shibata said, “We were playing well and had pressure on the whole drive. I was happy to get the sack but disappointed with final score.”

After the sack, with 50 seconds on the clock, possession of the ball and an 8 point lead Nagoya Cyclones should have only needed a first down to seal the victory. Club Hawkeye however used two timeouts to stop the clock and Nagoya went three-and-out with 29 seconds still on the clock.


Journey To 1st B.League Championship Starts Today

 

First the historic merger. Then a grueling but exciting 60-game season. Now it's time to crown the first champion of the B.League.

The B.League playoffs tip off today with the eight remaining teams vying to advance to the finals, where the winner will walk away with a Tiffany-designed trophy and a cool 5o million yen.

The Kawasaki Brave Thunders, the final champion of the National Basketball League before its merger with the bj.League, will be the prohibitive favorite. Led by scoring champion Nick Fazekas, the Brave Thunders stormed to a league-best 49-11 record.


Natsu Basho 2017: A New Dawn? 

Crowds wrap around the Kokugikan all the way o the Edo Tokyo Museum for the sokken open practice- John Gunning, Inside Sport: Japan, May 3, 2017
Crowds wrap around the Kokugikan all the way o the Edo Tokyo Museum for the sokken open practice- John Gunning, Inside Sport: Japan, May 3, 2017

When tickets went on sale for the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament in April, they disappeared in a flash. Within an hour, Tokyo’s Kokugikan was sold out for all fifteen days as the Kisenosato-effect continues to take hold of the Sumo world.

The 30-year old’s back-to-back Emperor’s Cup wins seem to have brought a level of enthusiasm for Sumo in Japan that has not been felt, perhaps, since the 1990s when Sumo last had four grand champions at the same time.


Silver Star Smother Pirates’ Unorthodox Offense

Yuta Hayashi scored all four Silver Star TDs - Chris Pfaff, Inside Sport: Japan, May 7, 2017
Yuta Hayashi scored all four Silver Star TDs - Chris Pfaff, Inside Sport: Japan, May 7, 2017

Asahi Beer opened their Pearl Bowl with an easy 28-3 victory over a Penta Ocean Pirates team that unveiled an offense that started out as novel, but quickly degraded into one-dimensional futility. QB Ryosuke Nishizawa is the only QB on the Pirates’ roster; however (despite standing on the sidelines in uniform) being injured meant all snaps under center went to tight end Hiroyuki Akatsu who handed the ball off or kept it himself on every play until halfway through the third quarter. You read that right, the Pirates attempted zero passes in the first half. The Pirates’ first drive looked promising as they marched down the field on a ten minute, 16 play drive that befuddled the Silver Star defense and resulted in a field goal. The field goal was kicked by none other than today’s makeshift wildcat operator, Hiroyuki Akatsu.


Game Of MisThrowns

Lions win sets up an elimination game with Lixil - John Gunning, Inside Sport: Japan, May 4, 2017
Lions win sets up an elimination game with Lixil - John Gunning, Inside Sport: Japan, May 4, 2017

All Mistubishi Lions and Fujitsu Xerox Minerva kept it close early on in the second Pearl Bowl game played in May 4th. The Lions had a ten point edge at the half, but distanced themselves in the second period, winning 38-7. This was the sixth game of the 2017 Pearl Bowl and the only game so far where the mercy rule* was not used.

All Mitsubishi did however run 25 more plays than their opponents and gained 469 yards on offense to Minerva’s 95.

Despite 300 yards combined through the air, a windy night meant there were five recorded INTs as well three other interception opportunities dropped.


Ruling The Volatile East

Brex Clinch Crown In BLeague’s Most Competitive Division

Action from Tochigi Brex -  Alvark Tokyo — Chris Pfaff, Inside Sport: Japan, May 3, 2017
Action from Tochigi Brex - Alvark Tokyo — Chris Pfaff, Inside Sport: Japan, May 3, 2017

Having missed their chance a few days ago, when they were dealt back-to-back losses in a weekend series for the first time this season, the Tochigi Brex, despite missing two veterans, put it all together to finish off the title race in the B.League's East conference.


IBM Big Blue Blowout The Bulls In Pearl Bowl Opener

IBM Big Blue's Kevin Coughlan in action during the 2017 Pearl Bowl Opener - John Gunning, Inside Sport: Japan, April 22, 2017
IBM Big Blue's Kevin Coughlan in action during the 2017 Pearl Bowl Opener - John Gunning, Inside Sport: Japan, April 22, 2017

The Big Blue kicked off the Pearl Bowl with a 34-3 victory over the outmatched Bulls on a cloudy day in Kawasaki. IBM’s unrelenting and fast-paced offense overwhelmed the Bulls as Big Blue scored on all but one possession. The victors had a bigger battle with the men in zebra stripes than they did with their opponents, being penalized six times including a fumble recovery that was erased by an offside call and two touchdowns brought back on OPI and holding. 


Living On The Razor's Edge

Freshly Shaven Parker Helps Jets Complete Vital Sweep Of East Rival Alvark

Michael Parker score for Chiba Jets— Chris Pfaff, Inside Sport: Japan, April 16, 2017
Michael Parker score for Chiba Jets— Chris Pfaff, Inside Sport: Japan, April 16, 2017

For his fifth wedding anniversary, veteran forward Michael Parker acceded to his wife’s wishes and shaved off the bushy facial hair that had been his trademark this season. It seemed appropriate given the close shaves that the Chiba Jets had over the weekend in a quest to improve their playoff situation.

Holding on for an 84-78 victory on Sunday at Tokyo's Yoyogi No. 2 Gym, the Jets completed a sweep of the two-game series with the Tokyo Alvark, the team they are trying to chase down for all-important second place in the East Division. With seven games left, the Jets are now just one game behind the Alvark.


Experience, Emotion Help Sunwolves To First Win Of Season

Yu Tamura kicks the game-winner — John Gunning, Inside Sport: Japan, April 8, 2017
Yu Tamura kicks the game-winner — John Gunning, Inside Sport: Japan, April 8, 2017

The Sunwolves won their first match of the season on Saturday, in a tight encounter against the Bulls at Chichibunomiya Stadium. The return of senior Japanese players, including Fumiaki Tanaka, Kotaro Matsushima, Yu Tamura, Shunsuke Nunomaki and Keita Inagaki, added composure to the team and galvanised the home fans.

Hayden Cripps got things rolling with a clever chip for captain Timothy Lafaele to chase. The ball was then swept out to the left wing, with debutant Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco racing to the corner to score the first try of the match.


Kisenosato Wins Title After Dramatic Playoff 

New Yokozuna Downs Ozeki Terunofuji Twice on Final Day Despite Serious Injury

Kisenosato performs his first honbasho yokozuna ring entering ceremony — John Gunning, Inside Sport: Japan, March 12th, 2017
Kisenosato performs his first honbasho yokozuna ring entering ceremony — John Gunning, Inside Sport: Japan, March 12th, 2017

Kisenosato’s January promotion to yokozuna in January made this year’s Osaka basho one of the most highly anticipated tournaments in recent times.

In a incredible display that will be remembered for years to come, Kisenosato powered his way through injury to claim a valiant come-from-behind yusho.

The Ibaraki native’s campaign began with 12 consecutive wins. With fellow yokozuna Hakuho pulling out injured and Harumafuji and Kakuryu suffering early defeats, Kisenosato looked a sure bet to take back-to-back titles.

However, the dream looked to have been derailed on day 13, when a determined Harumafuji blasted Kisenosato out of the dohyo and onto his shoulder. The 30-year old winced in pain and took a long time to get up as the crowd fell silent.


A Season Like No Other

JX-Eneos Rolls Over Toyota In WJBL Finals To Complete Historic Span Of Perfection

Sunflowers celebrate their historic achievement. — Chris Pfaff, Inside Sport: Japan, March 12, 2017
Sunflowers celebrate their historic achievement. — Chris Pfaff, Inside Sport: Japan, March 12, 2017

With the exception of losing the opening tipoff and his star player early in the second half - the latter being much more serious, but in the end, also not much of a factor--there was little that concerned JX-Eneos Sunflowers head coach Tom Hovasse as his team finished off the most dominant season in the history of the Women’s Japan Basketball League.  JX-Eneos capped a perfect season by routing the overmatched Toyota Antelopes 75-51 on Sunday at Tokyo's Yoyogi No. 2 Gym, completing a three-game sweep of the best-of-five WJBL championship finals for their ninth consecutive crown.