Tokyo Gaijin 17 NSC Rugger 10

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As expected, the semi-final of the Tokyo Cup provided this season?s hardest outing yet. The increasingly familiar Kizooch venue had been drenched by a week of rain, and standing water punctuated the mud slicks at the river-end of the fields. Strangely enough, it was in this slippery hinterland that all the scoring of a titanic match was to take place.  

 

 

Tokyo Gaijin 17 NSC Rugger 10

As expected, the semi-final of the Tokyo Cup provided this season?s hardest outing yet. The increasingly familiar Kizooch venue had been drenched by a week of rain, and standing water punctuated the mud slicks at the river-end of the fields. Strangely enough, it was in this slippery hinterland that all the scoring of a titanic match was to take place.

Early on, the heavy ground frustrated the attempts of a pacy NSC side to swing the ball wide. Indeed, the conditions were much better suited to the Gaijin?s heavyweight pack, and despite Chris Lucas and Mark Pearson at the ramming end of the battering, several trademark Gaijin charges went unrewarded.

A stream of unnecessary mistakes and penalties then gifted momentum to the Steelers, who were only kept at bay by the stonewall defence of Brian McKiernan and Jyoh Iwasaki in the midfield, with So Nagashima and Todd Collins mopping up the ball on the floor. However, the burly NSC forwards eventually set up a drive and try, the first 5-pointer conceded by the Gaijin in this cup campaign.

The Gaijin error count showed no sign of decreasing, and just before the break the Steelers scored again from a well-worked set-move at a line-out.

For the first time, this new look Gaijin team needed to fight to survive, and under the pressure of cup elimination the results were impressive. The Gaijin returned from the break in ferocious mood, and laid siege to the NSC line. After a series of mauls which sapped the NSC forwards, Richard Beard split the back-line defence with a sharp outside break. The now-marauding Joffa Harris was on hand to charge over with the swiftly recyled ball.

A string of injuries saw Blake Walker and Brian McKiernan limp and bleed from the field, but this simply allowed Chuckie Laing and Niall Conlon to add fresh intensity to the chase of the Nippon lead.  Nick Cooke then joined in for Mike Taylor, to make an impressive second-rown partnership with an inspired Mauro Sauco, who began scattering would-be tacklers in a one-man stampede of prize Argentinean beef. It was another replacement, stocky Seth Moran, who eventually rolled off the side of a fourteen-man maul to level the scores.

With the clock ticking down, the Gaijin showed no taste for extra-time. The siege continued, and after a typically mazy run, Takeshi Takada went in under the posts. Only to be called back for a double movement. Several try-line scrambles came to nothing. However, after another set and drive at the line-out, the backs broke through the middle, and the forwards poured through in support. As a reward for a hard day?s work at the maul-face, it was captain Joe Fisher who carried the ball up for the final and decisive score.

This was an epic collective effort, in which the self-belief and determination of this Gaijin team were seriously tested for the first time. The Gaijin had what it takes.

And not just on the field. Many thanks, as ever, to the many helpers who make the Gaijin?s participation in the Tokyo Cup both legal and therefore possible, in particular the fantastic Ayakos, Aaron, Shino, Paul, Jerry, and Takayuki.

Man of the Match: Joe Fisher (New Zealand), Mauro Sauco (Argentina)

Brady of the Match : J. Brady (provenance unknown)

 

The Tokyo Cup final is at Kizooch Field on Sunday 6 June