The group stages of the Rugby World Cup throw up a mix of predictable one-sided games, some mammoth clashes and a few surprises too. Rugby giants New Zealand faced off against South Africa on the opening weekend, England will play France in the final Group C match and then there was this particular one between Australia and Wales.
This game was of course a much bigger than the one I went to in Sapporo but I was probably less excited about it all in advance just because it was such a local match. They met last Sunday (29th September) at Tokyo Stadium, more commonly known as Ajinomoto Stadium when sponsorship is allowed to be used. It’s primarily used as a football ground for FC Tokyo and Tokyo Verdy but it has hosted rugby before. Indeed, I was there to see Scotland narrowly beat Japan in 2016.
Of the many, many grounds I’ve visited around Japan this still remains one of the easiest to get to from the nearest station which is Tobitakyu on the Keio Line. Matt and I were there at 1:15 am which was 3.5 hours before kick off!! A quick beer was consumed near the station before we took the short walk towards the stadium where huge crowds of fans were gathered and enjoying the pre-match atmosphere.
We soon spotted the legendary former Australian captain George Gregan doing some TV stuff and then posing for a few selfies but sadly I wasn’t quick enough to get one before he was moved on by his crew.
I may not have got George but we did get rugby super-fan ‘Bak-san’ who has painted his body in the colours of different teams throughout this tournament.
With so much time to kill before kick off we wandered round to the other side of the stadium where a couple more cheesy shots awaited us.
The Spectator Plaza was our destination but we didn’t realise that to enter we’d have to show our match ticket and also finish off the beers we’d brought along. Once inside Matt soon spotted a microphone and stage beneath the TV screen showing the Georgia vs Uruguay match. Within a few minutes of our arrival it was half time in that match and we walked straight down to the stage where a small crowd of people had gathered. The reason we were all there was that James Dean Bradfield of the Manic Street Preachers was about to appear on stage. Even though I’d only seen the band play live at Toyosu Pit a couple of nights before, I was really keen to see this short three-song acoustic set.
He announced immediately that it wouldn’t be a usual Manics misery gig but wedding reception stuff! ‘Sweet Caroline‘ was belted out followed by a short version of ‘A Design For Life‘ before he finished off with ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You‘ which is something of an unofficial Welsh sporting anthem albeit maybe more for football than rugby! I have said it before but I absolutely love this tune and it was awesome to experience that among this mini set from one of my idols.
We were absolutely buzzing after that and following a toilet stop we could see all of the Manics members on some kind of a balcony above. They soon left there and were heading towards the stadium. Drummer Sean was waiting for fellow bandmates Nicky and James and so the opportunity was there to get a quick photo with him. Top man! Why Matt chose to go between us rather than on Sean’s other side I don’t know!
Inside the stadium and the game kicked off at 4:45 pm. It was an explosive start as outside-half Dan Biggar put Wales ahead with a drop-goal after only 36 seconds and it was him again moments later who lofted a cross-field kick to the wing and Hadleigh Parkes beat his opponent to the ball and managed to touch down for the opening try.
Australia soon repeated the cross-kick themselves to get on the scoreboard but Wales hit back and stretched their lead with a couple of penalties before Gareth Davies intercepted a loose Australian pass and raced from inside his own half to give Wales a 15 point cushion at the interval.
At the break I went to see my friend Mac who was sitting just a few blocks along from me. You can watch his video here and there is even a cameo from me around the 30 minute mark……not that I knew I was even being filmed!
The Wallabies absolutely dominated the second half and gradually clawed their way back within touching distance of the Welsh thanks to a couple of converted tries. As nice as it was to have the majority of the match action taking place down our end I’d probably have rather the Welsh had the ball down the other end a bit more. It was a thrilling match but thankfully they managed to hold on for a famous victory.
Final Score: Australia 25 – 29 Wales
The attendance was 47,885 and the thought that most of them were heading to the nearest station was not one we really wanted to entertain. Matt suggested walking to the further away Tama Station which was on another line. I don’t think it saved us any time overall but it did mean a far more relaxed and leisurely walk well away from the crowds.
Click here to read ‘The Highs & Lows Of Watching England’s First Match At The Rugby World Cup In Sapporo’
Click here to read ‘Japan & South Africa Meet For The First Time Since “That” Huge Shock In 2015’
Click here to read ‘日本 vs スコットランド (Japan vs Scotland)’
Click here to read ‘Football Match Held Up By An Earthquake!’