Intensity rises as 2nd round of Japan’s X league wraps up

Round two of Japan’s 2017 X League saw Obic Seagulls rebound from their opening day loss with a strong 14-0 win over Nojima Sagamihara Rise. Panasonic Impulse had no trouble with the Asahit Soft Drinks Challengers while the Lixil Deers, All-Mitsubishi Lions, IBM Big Blue. Fujitsu Frontiers, Elecom Kobe Finies and As One Black Eagles all came away with wins.

The Obic Seagulls  took on the Rise at Fujitsu Stadium  in a game which was unsure to go ahead right up to that morning as a typhoon swept across Japan.

Wind and rain meant that passing probably wasn’t going to be featured and so it proved, with both Obic TDs coming on the ground and the team gaining only 78 yards in the air. The conditions also played havoc with whatever gameplan Nojima had. Even so they still had chances to score but crucial mistakes killed them. A Devin Gardner fumble on the goal line that was recovered by the Seagulls was one of four Rise turnovers on the day. That made the difference in a game between two teams with genuine title aspirations.

Photo: Inside Sport:Japan

Obic’s previous opponents and Nojima’s next, IBM Big Blue were on hand to witness the showdown as their game with Meiji Yasuda Penta Ocean Pirates was the curtain raiser that day. There was no letdown for IBM after their emotional first-ever win over Obic in week one. Quite the opposite as Big Blue kept the pedal to the metal from start to finish in a 52-0 thrashing of the Lions. The wind and rain made little difference as the team racked up 253 yards in the air. The ground game was even better, with six of their seven scores coming on runs.

John Stanton, who featured so strongly in the opener, didn’t find the end zone this time but six other IBM players did which means opponents in the weeks to come are going to have to pick their poison when it comes to this team. On defense it’s a similar story. Charles Tuaau and James Brooks were a nightmare for the Pirates and you get the feeling they still haven’t come close to full effectiveness. IBM have been there or thereabouts in recent seasons but they look more well-rounded and focused this season. It wouldn’t be wise to bet against them becoming champions for the first time in their history.

Photo: Inside Sport:Japan

Round Two of the XLeague also started with a four-turnover game. Bulls Football Club coming off an 84-0 hammering by the Rise gave the ball away to the All-Mitsubishi Lions constantly and when you are the weakest team in X1 that’s never going to result in anything good. The Lions though are strangely out of sorts this season and went in only one score up at halftime before pulling away after the break to win 36-7.

Lixil Deers are another team that has struggled to find a rhythm but were never threatened (on the scoreboard at least) by a limited Tokyo Metropolitan Police Eagles side at Fujitsu Stadium on September 10th . The game itself though was a feisty affair with several big hits and a few borderline ones causing players on both sides to get heated. A lack of decisiveness coupled with questionable decision making at times this season by officials has lead to complaints. With the level of the XLeague rising and the number of Americans increasing it’s been a challenge for the XLeague. Many of the men in zebra stripes of a more advanced age and not used to the physical style of play common to those imports.

Tokyo Gas took up where they left off in week one, running the ball on almost every play. They ground down Fuji Xerox Minerva AFC in the first half and when their opponents tried to stack the box after the break, Creators hit them with three 30-yard plus TD bombs. Incredibly those were the only passes Tokyo Gas completed in the second half.

Photo: Inside Sport:Japan

In west Japan, Panasonic continued their domination of all teams in that region with a 46-7 dismantling of Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers. The Impulse look like a team that could go all the way this year. They have added players at key positions and week-by-week they are settling in more. The week four game with champions Fujitsu Frontiers is set up to be a mouthwatering clash. Those Frontiers didn’t have it all their own way against Asahi Beer in week two.

Silver Star were only a blocked FG and Hail Mary TD from going in at halftime with the lead. Fujitsu using their greater depth pulled away in the second half. That game followed the Deers – Eagles one and like the earlier class was a hard fought and chippy affair that the officials struggled to keep under control.

Elsewhere Elecom Kobe Finies continued with the strong play they displayed in week one and thoroughly outclassed Nagoya Cyclones 63-7, and As One Black Eagles stayed unbeaten with a 23-0 shutout of Club Hawkeye.

One third of the way into the six game regular season it’s clear the big three has now become a big four and a half with Nojima just a shade behind Fujitsu, Obic, Panasonic and IBM. The latter four teams are the most likely semi-finalists but the Rise could take one slot and it’s clear many of the mid table teams are closing the gap even if they don’t have the front line talent or depth to challenge the big teams yet.