The penultimate day of Hatsu was a roaring, back breaking, endurance grinding, dirt eating thrill. Not sure when I have seen such a day of quality sumo, and I am glad I was around to see it. The match of the day is, without a doubt, Terunofuji’s win over Shodai. Since Daieisho’s sweep of the Ozeki in week one, it was clear that any chaser was going to have to overcome very strong competition in week 2. Shodai’s sumo has been both impressive and a bit chaotic, but Terunofuji really gave him a fight today.
Daieisho has Okinoumi on day 15, who comes into the match at 7-7. I am not sure the veteran from Shimane-ken has what it takes this January to put Daieisho into the dohyo and bring about the potential for a playoff – if and only if Shodai can overcome Asanoyama. Daieisho owns his destiny now, and a win on day 15 will give him the Emperor’s Cup.
My compliments to the scheduling team in once again building a great basho with less than optimum materials to work from.
Kotonowaka defeats Yutakayama – Yet another day, and Yutakayama can’t get his 8th win. You can see the point where Yutakayama lets his frustration boil over, lunge in and give the match to Kotonowaka. Well, it’s Darwin time for Yutakayama on day 15. Kotonowaka improves to 10-4.
Myogiryu defeats Kotoeko – Myogiryu joins Yutakayama in the day 15 Darwin queue, as he defeats Kotoeko in spite of a last minute throw by Kotoeko. That’s loss number eight for Kotoeko and make-koshi.
Tokushoryu defeats Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi elects to get chest to chest with Tokushoryu, and Tokushoryu’s belly. The belly takes control and pushes Sadanoumi over the bales. Tokushoryu advances to 3-11 (well, 2(1)-11, that’s his belly there with one win).
Kiribayama defeats Midorifuji – An excellent endurance match, with Midorifuji supplying most of the offensive energy, and Kiribayama working hard to keep Midorifuji shut down and himself in the match. Then…. MAWASHI FAIL. Not enough that the NHK cameras comically pan to the roof in panic, but Kiribayama’s came loose, and the gyoji stops the match to perform a bit of in-situ haberdashery. Kiribayama’s post pause pulling attempt disrupted the stalemate, and he was able to get Midorifuji moving and pushed him out. Excellent sumo, and Kiribayama finds his 8th win for kachi-koshi. Brilliant match.
Hoshoryu defeats Tobizaru – A fine thrusting battle that was more or less even until Tobizaru attempts a pull and releases forward pressure. Hoshoryu capitalizes on this opening and runs Tobizaru off to visit the fans ring side. Tobizaru picks up his 8th loss and is make-koshi while Hoshoryu advances to 9-5. Nine straight wins after a 0-5 start.
Akua defeats Ryuden – Ryuden gets a bit too far forward and Akua uses his arm to lever him to the clay. Both are deeply make-koshi, but Akua improves to 5-9.
Akiseyama defeats Tochinoshin – Its becoming a frequent refrain – Tochinoshin’s knees don’t allow him to transmit enough power to ground to permit him to hold back a top division rikishi. Once Akiseyama starts to advance, all Tochinoshin can do is try to deflect. But that fails and he’s out in a moment. Akiseyama improves to 9-5.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoshoho – Terutsuyoshi brought heaps of offensive power to this match, but Kotoshoho was not going to be a push over, in spite of what his 1-12 score might indicate. Even when Terutsuyoshi has morozashi, Kotoshoho defended and even brought Terutsuyoshi back to the center of the dohyo. Feeling an opportunity, Kotoshoho drover forward for a win, right into Terutsuyoshi’s utchari. Terutsuyoshi improves to 6-8. You have to feel for Kotoshoho, but he’s young, he’s good, and he will be back.
Shimanoumi defeats Onosho – Shimanoumi absorbed Onosho’s initial forward blast, and in many matches, that’s 80% of winning against Onosho. Shimanoumi stayed calm, stayed focused, and kept working to dial up the forward power, driving Onosho out by yorikiri. That’s win number 8 and kachi-koshi for Shimanoumi.
Takarafuji defeats Ichinojo – When Takarafuji endured Ichinojo’s opening combo, it was clear he was going to be able to set up his defend and extend technique against the Boulder. Other’s have tried this January, so bold move from Takarafuji. Takarafuji wisely set up with Ichinojo off axis, and did not need to bare the full weight of Ichinojo leaning forward. Takarafuji kept working a bit at a time further to the side of Ichinojo, reducing Ichinojo’s ability to push. I think it got to the point where Takarafuji realized it was “now or never” and lifted Ichinojo from the side and drove for the win. Great effort from both. That burst of strength from Takarafuji about 2 minutes into an endurance match really surprised me. Both end the day with 9-5.
Hokutofuji defeats Aoiyama – Again, where was this sumo week one Hokutofuji? With his mighty make-koshi firmly secured, Hokutofuji dominates each match now. To be fair Aoiyama decided to try and pull, and that just opened the door for Hokutofuji’s big thrust that won the match. He improves to 6-8.
Daieisho defeats Tamawashi – I was impressed that Daieisho’s big opening combo did not really move Tamawashi, who absorbed a couple of volleys, then attacked. Daieisho’s mobility was perfect, and he pulled in response to Tamawashi’s forward lunge, stepping to the side and bringing Tamawashi down. Daieisho improves to 12-2 and the yusho train keeps rolling.
Takayasu defeats Kagayaki – The move to look for is Takayasu’s big twist to break Kagayaki’s grip. It’s small and easy to miss, but that was magic, and it’s at that moment that Takayasu took control of the match and powered Kagayaki out. Takayasu improves to 9-5.
Endo defeats Mitakeumi – Endo got his frontal grip a moment after the tachiai, and he was in business. Sure, at that point it was like lifting a refrigerator across a curb, but Endo got it done. He improves to 6-8.
Takanosho defeats Okinoumi – To my eye that tachiai was in matta territory, but they went ahead with the match. Okinoumi was powering forward, and Takanosho responded with a step back and a hand to the back of Okinoumi’s neck. That’s win 8 for Takanosho. That’s kachi-koshi for Takanosho, and Okinoumi will need to win on day 15 to reach 8. Against…. Daieisho?!!
Terunofuji defeats Shodai – The big match we were all waiting to see, and it did not disappoint. Shodai opted to open defensive, and attempted a thrust down against the 3rd step of Terunofuji’s overpower charge. But Terunofuji’s balance was too well established, and the fight was on. Shodai pressed the attack chest to chest, and nearly drove Terunofuji from the ring, but again Terunofuji kept his feet quiet, and heavy. Shodai was leaping to maximize pressure, but could not finish him. For an instant Shodai found himself behind Terunofuji, but could not attack in time. Terunofuji attacks again, Shodai loses his footing and the kaiju slaps him down. Brilliant sumo. Shodai falls one behind Daieisho, Terunofuji hits double digits, and the sumo world goes crazy.
Asanoyama defeats Meisei – Asanoyama tried hard to get “that” grip set up, but had to settle for a trust down when his body would not comply. Good view of a viable switch to “plan b” from Asanoyama, a real weakness of his. Asanoyama improves to 10-4.