The tournament took on a slightly different structure this year due to the number of competing teams. Teams were seeded in the group stages and thus were limited in which competition they could participate. This year the TGRFC were seeded in the third tier (the bowl), which mean that at best they could only compete in the plate (the second division), and at worst play in the shield (the fourth division). The group stages would determine this, and the opposition line-up looked fierce… Nomads 2nd Xs (the tournament's home team), Singapore Barbarians 2nd Xs (the reserve team for the winners of the 2007 competition), and the Cebu Dragons (a local side with strong grass-roots support).
Group Stage, Match 1: Tokyo Gaijin vs Nomad 2nd Xs
With the Nomads as the home team, there was keen interest from the crowd in the outcome of this match. And as the first match for the Tokyo Gaijin, there were nerves in the team camp. It took Crispian Short to lift spirits for the occasion as he called on all Tokyo Gaijin to "explode over the ball". And the Gaijin started off with a bang. Despite the sweltering heat and the rather excessive drinking from the previous night, the Gaijin kept a clean sheet and saw 2 tries home. Will Thompson and Semi drive over the line to score two tries in quick succession. Thompson's try was a good team effort with the ball passing though at least 6 pairs of hands, while Semi's try came from a kick by the captain, a fortunate bounce and an opportunistic run finishing between the posts. The former conversion was missed but the second met with success as the Gaijin went on to win their first game 12 points to nil. Group
Stage, Match 2: Tokyo Gaijin vs Singapore Barbarians 2nd Xs
This was potentially the big crunch match for the Gaijin, as the Singapore Barbarians historically have produced some excellent rugby and have won the Cup both in 2006 and 2007. Although the second string team, a fair amount of "swapping" seemed to have been done between the firsts and the seconds and the Tokyo Gaijin would have to step up a gear in order to beat a formidable enemy. And of course for Nick Rudd, this was a nostalgic event… instead of playing alongside his old team mates of which he speaks so fondly, he finds himself facing them as opponents. "Rugby is rugby", said the Liverpudlian, "and although I may have won the cup with them back in 2006, nothing would please me more than to put one over my old chums" (loose translation of what was actually said, which no-one seems to have understood). The game proved to be very tight, and the Gaijin defence was once again up to the challenge. Open passing of the ball failed to create gaps in what were two very well organised defences. However an attempted chip kick by the Singapore Barbars from the base of a ruck with the intension of putting the ball behind a flat defence was sniffed out by scrum half Alaister Nimmo as he charged down a poorly executed kick. The subsequent bounce fell kindly for Nimmo as he ran the short distance to the try line. Downer converted and solid tackling was rewarded with a clean sheet. What continued to stand out was the lack of missed tackles and captain Downer was very pleased with this. Final score, 7 points to nil in favour of the Tokyo Gaijin.
Group Stage, Match 3: Tokyo Gaijin vs Cebu Dragons
From neighbouring island Cebu, the Dragons were one of a few local Filipino sides. Strong grass roots support and a Kiwi-esque black uniform suggested that this too would not be a walk over. Here however, the Gaijin enjoyed a few tries. Unfortunately, memories of the final score escape the team together with the nights out, but tries were scored by Downer, Nimmo, Bati and a mystery player. A win (and yet another match where no points were conceded) put the Tokyo Gaijin in pole position for their group and would mean competing in the plate tournament, effectively jumping up a division.
Plate Division, Quarter-Final: Tokyo Gaijin vs Para Todu
The Para Todu hail from the Territory of Guam, and although not a big side proved to be tough opposition. Infringements in the ruck allowed Para Todu opportunities to attack the Gaijin try line from the kick off. Despite a try-saving tackle by Bati, it proved too much for the Gaijin as their defence broke and Para Todu went over the line in the early stages of the match. The Gaijin tried hard to get back into the game but with each game lasting only minutes, it was a big ask. Without really threatening the opposition try line, the game finished 7 points to nil which ended hopes for further success. Despite getting knocked out without silverware, the standard of rugby overall was perhaps the best that the Gaijin had seen in the last three tours, and with only one try conceded in the entire tournament, there were plenty of positives to take hope back to Japan. Tourists would like the thank Joffa again for organizing another enjoyable tour, and all overseas players who made the weekend a memorable one.