Tokyo Gaijin CoinThe first match for the Tokyo Gaijins Shuto Leage season came to pass
 this past weekend and in many ways it went exactly as expected.

The week leading up to the match showed that people were excited and
 eager to get back on the pitch and prove that the Gaijin were the team
 to beat. Emails were flying about who would start, who deserved what 
and who had been training and who was truly ready to play. A lot of
 talk had been made - especially by the Captain - about the potential
 effects of the ELV's and how they may change the tactics of our play. 
In particular, the added emphasis on fitness was a focal point.  The forecast was hot and humid with a 35% chance of showers. All
 proved to be correct as weather had been stormy with a lot of thunder
and lightening through the latter half of summer. As the Gaijin warmed
 up on a scorching and humid (post-rain) day, the need for water during
 warm-up breaks showed how the humidity would play early on.

 From the start of the match the Gaijin seemed to not be able to find 
their pace. While there was no lack of desire to get hands on the ball
and make plays on the field. Plays were some what disjointed and there
was not really a sense that things were firing on all cylinders.

 Captain Murray Clarke did his best to raise the alarm, and get the 
Gaijin to pick up the intensity. 

The first 20 minutes saw a see saw of 
back and forth movements between both teams near mid field. Till final
ly the Beers put one past the Gaijin try line with a chip and chase up
the left wing. The kick was not converted.



First game of the year and the Gaijin were already down 5-zip. This 
did not sit well with the team but there remained a confidence that it
was only a matter of time before we would take control. However, that wasn’t to happen before the Beers were able to score again from a turnover and breakaway from around halfway and stretch their lead to 10-0. Gaijin speedster and fitness expert Andy Ballard seemed to have his opposite in check but as Andy admitted after the game “he just ran away from me!” It wasn’t quite panic stations but things were getting pretty dire. The Gaijin clearly had the edge in terms of skill and forward momentum but on the scoreboard (where it counts) we were 10 points down.

The intensity needed to be lifted and it was the Basque terrier Paulo Berriozabal who was to lead the charge. From a series of pick and gos that saw most of the
forwards get their hands on the ball, Paulo rounded off the great work
by the pack by dotting down fairly wide out. The kick was not converted. 
Other action worth note during the first half was the work of Mr. Rob Paulton. On one occasion he 
charged at pace toward the defense (with support on both sides) only
 to spill the ball forward in a comic display (in the tackle of a 
rather small fullback); on another he made good ground, smashing
through tackles but fumbled the offload, while the pinnacle of his 
comedy was a tap penalty where he charged at the try line only to be
gang tackled and see the ball spill not just forward, but ejected 20 
meters or more over the deadball line. Nice one. 

Despite the error count, with about 10 minutes remaining in the first half, the Gaijin were
 knocking at the gates again and Paulo scored another fantastic try
from about 2 meters out. The forwards were starting to hum nicely with 
their pick and go game, done at speed with quick ball retention so the
defense could not prepare. The kick was this time converted by Downer from a difficult angle and
 Gaijin were up for the first time in the game (and season!) 12-10.

When the half time whistle blew Captain Murray Clarke made it clear 
that in order to put this one away early the Gaijin needed to do one
 thing. Score a try in the opening minutes and cement the good work
 that had been done toward the end of the first half. This was after
all, our first 15-a-side run in over 3 months so rustiness was
 excusable - though losing was not.
 
Your humble author looked out on the horizon and thought the formation
of clouds that were fast approaching looked ominous. Then with about
 10 minutes into the second half the heavens opened up and it was a
down pore. The rain sent women and children fleeing for cover while
the game marched on. Bags and kit were soaked.

The rain and gale picked up in ferocity, the Gaijin attacked the Beers
line but were repeatedly repelled or let down by handling at close
quarters. The scrum was now dominating but the finishing was still not
there. Sets of pick and goes that were then turned out to the backs.
But the battle raged on in the storm with the Gaijin winning territory
 thanks to a gale force wind that kept the Beers trapped. Yet, still 
the Gaijin could not handle the slippery ball for long enough to dot
 down.

The storm was extremely intense and day light had turned to a 
darkness. A lighting strike near the pitch about 15 minutes in brought
 the referee to call the game off, erring toward safety. A few years
back a school kid was killed by lightening at a soccer match outside
Tokyo and across the board this is a safety rule applied to all
sports. Another kid was paralysed just two years back, so fair enough
 we thought (once we had calmed down).
 
Everyone hurried to get themselves and their gear out of the rain
 under a nearby overpass till the rain dissipated. As the rain halted 
and the Gaijin made their way to a local combini for post match beers 
and man/goat of the match.
 Final Score: 12-10 (de Berriozabal 2 tries, Downer 1/2 conversions) 
 Man of the Match: Paulo de Berriozabal

Goat of the Match: Rob Poulton