USA Rugby v Japan

As someone who’s been involved in the rugby community for more than fourteen years, nothing gets me more excited than seeing professional rugby being played in my own backyard. USA played Japan last night in a night of big hits, crisp passes, and a beautiful hat trick by Blaine Scully.
We headed to the venue about half an hour before kick off to meet up with friends and teammates. I’ve grown up in such a tight-knit rugby community that it’s hard to go to a game without running into someone you know. Personally, I love it! It certainly gives a “family” feel to the sport. We become more than just spectators watching a game together because we can all experience it.
Last year’s game against Tonga in the same venue didn’t sell as well as expected, so I was pleased to see more tickets were sold for this match. Rugby is growing at such a fast pace, it’s incredible! I love sharing my passion and love for the sport and seeing a professional game is a great way for newbies to get their feet wet.
Many people were tailgating in the parking lot, some repping USA jerseys, others decked out in red, white, and blue, and some even in sumo outfits. Needless to say, it sure is a party at rugby games. The girls and I dressed as patriotically as we could and the boys wore jerseys.


 I spent the first half of the game at the 50 meter line and spent the second half behind the try zone. Having never seen Japan play rugby before, I was impressed with their caliber of play. Although they were smaller than USA, their technique was spot on. They hit rucks quickly and efficiently. They also had incredibly crisp passes and were able to place their kicks tactically. They qualify for next year’s Rugby World Cup, so it’ll be great to see how they progress this year. 
   USA was filled with a good mix of players I’ve seen throughout the years and new players. I’ve grown up watching Todd Clever and Chris Wyles (who captained the match) and am always impressed by their hard work ethic as a forward and back, respectively. USA players made some great hits and an early on interception set the stage for the match, certainly exciting the home crowd. The game was pretty back and forth, with strength being shown on USA’s wings, who had solid breakaways throughout the match. 
   Japan was able to capitalize on breakaways in the scrum, and in my opinion, there was too much hesitation in kicking. I’ve been taught that missed tackles lose games, but a golden rule that’s just as important is that poor kicks can cost you. For professional players who should be used to kicking under pressure and clearing the ball from their “red zone”, there was a little too much hesitation and delay. There was quite a bit of kicking from both sides. 
   The game was fairly close throughout the entirety of the game, and USA fans tried hard to pump the home team up with chants and yells. (Maybe a few fans were a bit drunk..? ;)). Things got quite exciting at the end. With just about ten minutes to go, the score was just 34-29, with Japan only a try away.  USA gave away a penalty right in front of the posts, which was successfully kicked, giving Japan a lead of 37-24. While the crowd was hopeful that in ten minutes USA could score, convert, and make a penalty kick, unfortunately the cards didn’t get played that way. 
   I have a habit of sticking behind my camera during big events and missing out on the fun, so I didn’t snap many pictures. However, you can find some at the USA Rugby Facebook
   Overall, the game was much more successful than last year. Although the seats in the pictures are fully open, the sides we were sitting on were packed, which is great. One can only hope that with more of a marketing push, the stadium will be packed next year, for whichever team comes our way!

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