Rugby In Pads
Tokyo Gas Goes Old School To Defeat Eagles
Tokyo Gas Creators kept the ball on the ground and in the hands of their swift quarterbacks to beat the Keishicho Eagles 32-6 at Tokyo Dome on Monday night..
If we may start with a bit of a history lesson: Back in the early days of football, the forward pass did not exist. Quarterbacks would simply hand off the ball or keep it themselves to gain yardage. The forward pass was first conceived of as a way to try and reduce injuries and was largely ignored or used only sparingly in its first several years in the rulebook.
Tokyo Gas appears to have studied their history. The team attempted only nine passes all night and it was not until after the first drive and a half that either team attempted a throw. The bulk of the Creators' runs were entrusted to RB Fumitaka Obana, who carried 17 times for 104 yards - almost twice that of any other rusher. Much of his yardage came after the tackle. Obana averaged six yards a carry, with a longest of 14.
The bulk of Tokyo's remaining offense was generated by a regular rotation of three QBs tucking the ball and running. The Creator's one-dimensional approach was far from ineffective however, producing 111 yards between the three signal callers. All but two of the 23 first downs were on the ground. By far the most successful in yardage and on the scoreboard was fleet-footed QB Hidehito Tokushima, who ran the ball nine times and whose legs were responsible for all four Tokyo Gas touchdowns.
Most of Tokushima’s runs were straight up the middle, though this did not slow him down, as he was never caught for negative yardage. His longest run was a nimble 18-yard dance for the Creators’ final TD of the night. Tokushima’s only pass was a shovel for 3 yards. What there was of the passing game was left to dual-threat QB Hiroki Nakamoto, who ran the ball, mostly on option plays, for 33 yards. Nakamoto threw the ball four times with one interception thrown late in the second half, on his first attempt to open the field with a long pass. He made up for this with a 27-yard pass in the third quarter to WR Takuya Oshita. This catch on the Eagle’s nine-yard line was Oshita’s only one of the night, but set up Tokushima’s third rushing TD two plays later. QB Ryo Murota was brought in for 3 pass attempts and 3 runs, likely to give the other two QBs a needed breather. The Creators only other score was a 36-yard field goal by kicker Yosuke Kaneoya, as the clock ran down in the second half. This is if you don’t include a faked PAT run in for a two-point conversion after the team’s second TD. The Eagles were out in their new uniforms, which read Keishicho (Metropolitan Police) in Japanese on the back.
This was the first time traditional 'kanji' characters had been used on an X League uniform, according to the announcement. Last season the team's name in English occupied the same position.
The Eagles struggled for the nineteen minutes they held the ball, punting four times and failing at two fourth down drive-saving attempts in the second half. Though they were largely outmatched, their QB, Masaru Nakayama, did what he could, completing 11 of 21 passes for 95 yards and rushing for another 13. His favorite target was wide out Shota Shimizu, who chalked up 48 yards on five receptions, the longest going for 24.
The Eagles were not without their moments of brilliance. After the interception by DB Yasuhisa Iwashita that stopped a promising drive, WR Yutaro Nagasu was handed the ball, rolled out to the right and threw downfield to a wide open Daichi Furubayashi. The Creators’ defense was taken completely off guard, and Furubayashi ran in for the touchdown unabated.
This momentum was short-lived however, and was not helped by a low PAT attempt that hit the bottom of the goal post. Later in the fourth quarter, the Eagles made a last ditch effort on their last drive, opening up the field in a attempt to get another score, but were stopped on a 4th down gamble at the Tokyo Gas 19 yard line. In a post game interview, a beaming Tokushima said that the QB rotation was a deliberate plan designed to utilize Nakamoto’s dual threat abilities and Tokushima’s evasive skills. He said they planned to continue this approach in their next matchup against 0-1 Minerva.
New American player, DL Richard Ellebie, recently picked up from IBM Big Blue, expressed satisfaction with his team’s performance and felt he was adjusting well to his new side, both on the field and off. The Eagles meanwhile will have their talons’ full when they play perennially competitive Lixil in their next game.
- J. Charles Sagawa: September 4th 2017
Tokyo Gas Creators (32) - (6) Metropolitan Police Eagles
Photos: Dan Orlowitz - September 4th 2017: Tokyo Dome